The rate of Ontario youth unemployment rivals those of the European Union and the U.S. Rust Belt states. So says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in its recent report, “The Young and the Jobless”. Joblessness among people aged 15 to 24 in Ontario is 16.9 per cent, which is higher than that in Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The actual employment rate is significantly worse. It ranges from 50 to 52 per cent in the province, meaning half of all youths don’t have jobs.
The gap between youth and adult employment in Toronto is the largest in the province at 21.8 per cent. The report states that “young workers are subject to the negative consequences of the same macroeconomic forces that are aﬀecting the rest of the population. However, young workers are the labour market’s canary in the coalmine. When there are hiring freezes, they remain out of work. When there are layoﬀs, it is newer, younger workers who often feel the brunt of the job losses.”
Many believe that education is the key to success. Not quite so, at least not in our times. As the Toronto Star reports, a typical student makes about $26,000 a year, between four part-time jobs. Most of the earnings go towards tuition. And according to the Canadian Federation of Students, average student debt after graduating with a four year degree is $37,000. Yet, having a degree does not always increase your chance of getting a job. The 17.1 per cent unemployment rate among adults with advanced (above bachelors) degrees is higher than young workers who have completed high school (16.0 %).
Youth make up 17 % of the world’s population. According to the International Labour Organization, there are 73 million young unemployed people in the world, an increase of 3.5 million since 2007. At the same time, informal employment among young people remains pervasive and transitions to decent work are slow and difficult. For example, informal employment accounts for half of the jobs of young workers in the Russian Federation.
Against this backdrop, socialists argue:
The youth are the backbone of production. But young workers need to unite to become the brain of production as well. More jobs, higher wages, shorter working hours, and better working conditions are achievable only through organized struggle.
Education is a right not a privilege. Post-secondary education should be free. Drop fees and cancel student debt, now! To achieve these goals, get involved in the student unions, and challenge students’ union officials to lead the struggle. Follow the example of the Quebec students’ strike in 2012!
Bridge the gap between youth and the rest of the working class. Replace the labour leaders who accept divisive conditions, such as the two-tier wage system (lower starting pay) that increases the exploitation of youth.
Youth unemployment, like mass unemployment among adults, can be overcome if new jobs are created, such as by launching massive public works to provide housing and to modernize infrastructure. Expropriating the banks and giant corporations, and placing them under workers’ control, is necessary to finance and implement massive public investment projects.
Today’s rotting capitalism resembles a coal mine before a methane gas explosion. Youths should not be the canaries in that mine. They should organize, join workers’ struggles, and smash the cage in which they are trapped. — by Y. Fikret Kayali
by Tyler Mackinnon and Ben Rostoker
With the Quebec student strikes still fresh in mind, one would expect a push for solidarity in student unions to fight austerity measures and tuition hikes. Sadly, the opposite seems to be the case. Before the fall semester, students from 15 different universities across the Canadian state campaigned to get their local student unions to leave the Canadian Federation of Students.
The CFS was formed in 1981. It has been a critical tool for organizing cross-country activities to protest rising fees. Originally the CFS was identified with grass roots actions and advanced working class demands for the abolition of tuition fees. However by the mid-1990’s what was once a meeting place for progressive student activists had turned into a vehicle for careerist liberals. Many of these careerists sought to downplay radical demands and weaken the CFS as a forum for student union organizing. Under an increasingly opportunist leadership, the CFS became riddled with corruption, including such practices as ballot box stuffing. CFS activism shrivelled.
This altered somewhat in the spring of 2012, when tens of thousands of Quebecois students hit the streets against the tuition increases imposed by the Jean Charest Quebec Liberal government. The CFS rose from hibernation and supported the Quebec students; it even dusted off its old demands for free-post secondary education. As the Quebec student strikes evolved into a general movement against austerity, the CFS claimed it sought to reform its own top-down style of conventions comprised of delegates, and replace it with the Quebecois system of general assemblies that encouraged all students to participate.
Sadly the promises of the CFS leadership never materialized.It has been over a year and not a single student protest has been organized by the CFS. There has been no move to adopt Quebec’s more democratic institutions. Indeed, the idea of a Quebec-like student strike spreading to English Canada has been condemned by the CFS, which claims it would be divisive, since the student body is “not ready yet.” This is where we see some of the basis for the split emerging.
Despite the threats voiced by various spokespersons for the students seeking to disaffiliate from the CFS, it seems unlikely that the 6,000 to 8,000 signatures needed at Ryerson University to cause a referendum on this issue will be gathered.
Ryerson Student Union President Melissa Palermo expressed surprise that students would even consider such a move. “We have had such widespread support across Ryerson for what we are doing with the CFS,” Palermo told SA. She said that despite the many flaws of the CFS, it still provides post-secondary students with a variety of services, such as the community food rooms. Right-wing students tried to push disaffiliation in 2009, and the RSU is confident it will fail again.
However, the last split effort does pose key questions: Why and How can this be done? It seems clear that those who support the split want to form a new student union, but they seem to have no plan to accomplish it. There is no broad, grass roots organization working to unite those who want to create a new union. Part of the problem is the political makeup of the split campaign. At its heart is an anarchist-inspired ‘apolitical’ movement of right wingers, anti-unionists, anarchists, new left socialists, and others who claim that this is a movement that everyone, both ‘right and left’, have their reasons to support. Thus we have right wingers saying that they never wanted to be in a union, and leftists denouncing the lack of concrete CFS solidarity with Quebec students. So the guiding light seems to be ‘let’s break the CFS and let its members spill out into the ether.’
The prevalence of anarchist misconceptions on organizing without leadership, and so called ‘diversity of tactics’ (which all too often means no planning and condoning the actions of a substitutionist, violent minority) means that there is no plan to replace the CFS with a superior structure. Plus, there is no attempt to build a movement inside the CFS to address the corruption, unaccountability, and lack of internal democracy – even as part of a plan to build a better and separate union. And with no visible organization, or coordination, those wishing to leave the CFS will either be left to their own devices, and substantially weaker. Less effective equivalents to the CFS could emerge, or a disjointed and isolationist political landscape for student unions may result.
The CFS is a union and it should be treated accordingly. There should be an organized fight within it. Only as a last ditch effort, and provided that there is a mass base for real change, and only if the route to internal democratic change is totally barred, should a split be contemplated.
Youth for Socialist Action argues that there should be a fight within the CFS to push its leadership to the left, or to replace it and return the CFS to its democratic roots as a bottom up organization. In addition, the local student unions should encourage its members to get involved in campaigns for social justice, such as the ‘drop tuition fees’ and ‘abolish student debt’ campaigns, the Justice for Sammy movement, opposition to war spending and social cuts, and the fight for affordable housing and free mass public transit. Youth for Socialist Action contends that it is vital to show the connection between the attack on the students’ movement and the corporate austerity drive. To fight inside, as well as outside the CFS, is the only way the students’ movement can hope to win against the capitalist rulers and their anti-student, anti-worker agenda.