Tag Archives: CUPW

In Canada, the Right to Strike Exists… Until you Try to Use it

Postal workers, power workers, teachers and bus drivers are recent victims of a disturbing trend – loss of the right to strike. In the case of members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, federal Liberal back-to-work legislation on November 27 put a halt to five weeks of rotating strikes. Up to then, no cross-country work stoppage occurred, and there was only a minor mail backlog. On December 20, the Conservative Ontario government passed a no strike law aimed at 6,000 Power Workers’ Union members who run hydroelectric stations and nuclear plants; this occurred before any job action began. Back in the Spring, a Liberal Ontario regime broke the strike of teaching assistants, members of CUPE Local 3903, at York University. In May 2015, Queen’s Park stopped secondary school teachers from exercising their ‘right to strike’ at three school boards. In 2009, the government imposed a back-to-work law on striking Toronto Transit Commission workers.

According to the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR), a serious erosion of the fundamental and universal human right to organize into a union, and to engage in free collective bargaining is spreading. Federal and provincial governments in Canada passed 224 pieces of legislation since 1982 that have limited, suspended or denied collective bargaining rights.

Authorities restricted the right of unions to organize. Collective agreements have been torn up. Negotiated wages and benefits have been taken away. Employers’ proposals have been legislatively imposed on workers and the right to strike removed. Both the private and the public sectors have been hit.

The CFLR finds that:

There has been a major change in the frequency and severity of back-to-work legislation in Canada in recent years. Since the early 1980s, the number of instances of back-to-work legislation is higher than any other period in the history of labour relations in Canada. In the last three decades, the federal government alone passed 19 pieces of back-to-work legislation while provincial governments across the country have enacted 73 pieces of back-to-work legislation.

Most of this legislation (50 of the 92 pieces of legislation) not only forced workers back to work after taking strike action, but also arbitrarily imposed settlements on the striking workers. In 2011 postal workers were locked out, then had terms and conditions imposed on them.

A common phenomenon in the public sector throughout the 1980s and 1990s has been the suspension of collective bargaining rights. With the exception of Saskatchewan, public sector workers across Canada gained the right to collective bargaining in the decade between 1967 and 1977. In the three decades that followed, most public sector workers have had their collective bargaining rights suspended anywhere from three to ten years.

There have been 53 pieces of legislation passed in the federal Parliament and provincial legislatures that have suspended the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers.

Since 1982, there have also been 80 instances where federal and provincial labour laws have been amended to further restrict unions’ ability to organize and bargain collectively. Nine pieces of legislation have actually denied certain categories of workers the right to join a union and nine pieces of legislation have restricted the certification process hurting the labour movement’s ability to organize the unorganized. There have been 62 instances where the federal and provincial governments passed legislation that restricted the rules and/or scope of bargaining, denied the right to strike and limited the mechanisms available for settlement of disputes or allowed for greater government and/or employer interference in internal union matters.”

In a recent news release, Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario asked:

When are we going to see ‘back to the bargaining table’ legislation forcing employers to deal with workers’ representatives fairly and appropriately?

Clearly, the bosses’ agenda is not about bargaining. It is about squeezing workers, and using the law to deprive workers of a legal recourse. Thus, what pressure can workers hope to apply?

Traditionally, less than two per cent of collective bargaining led to a legal strike. Today, even that low incidence is being reduced to a rarity.

Why? Because the capitalist rulers have fewer crumbs to offer. They seek to solve their deep economic problems on the backs of working people. Conservative labour leaders and cowardly social democrats compound the problem by acquiescing to concessions demanded by management. General Motors, after milking the public for billions of dollars in aid, is planning to shut down auto production in Oshawa – and seems to be getting away Scot-free.

What is the solution? Workers should look to history to see how the first unions were built, and how improvements were won. May 1, 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike.

A general strike – now there’s an idea whose time has come again. History teaches that struggle decides, not the law.

(The above article was compiled by Barry Weisleder.)

Toronto Rally Defends Postal Services

IMG_6210Over 400 people rallied on Saturday, September 20 outside the uptown Toronto constituency office of Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver to demand a halt to Tory and Canada Post Corporation plans to eliminate home mail delivery and set higher prices for postage.
Participants came from as far away as Vernon, B.C. and Charlottetown, P.E.I. They included retired auto workers from Oshawa, and a group of posties who hired a bus in Hamilton, Ontario.

Elizabeth Byce - Chairperson
Elizabeth Byce – Chairperson

Rally chair Elizabeth Byce, a proud retired member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, past Secretary of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and a leading member of Socialist Action, welcomed the crowd. In the breezy, warm sunshine she led-off the proceedings with a few chants: “1,2,3,4, mail delivery door-to-door, 5,6,7,8, stop increasing postal rates”, “Stop the Cuts at Canada Post”, and “They say Cutback. We say Fightback”.
“I say to Finance Minister Joe Oliver, you can hide, but you cannot escape our anger, and you cannot avoid our determination to hold you and your government accountable for cuts to the postal service that Canadians hold dear. Keep your bloody hands off our public services!”, Byce told the gathering.
“Many organizations have endorsed this rally. They are listed on the newspaper ads and the leaflets you’ve seen. New endorsers include: the Workers’ Action Centre, York Region Catholic Teachers, United Steel Workers – Toronto Area Council, and the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP). We thank them all.”

She then introduced the rally speakers as follows:

Denis Lemelin, President of CUPW

“Denis Lemelin, the leader of the fight to save vital postal services and good jobs, is the President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. His involvement in the union began in 1979 when he started as a postal clerk in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Marie Clark-Walker, VP CLC
Marie Clark-Walker, VP CLC

“Marie Clark-Walker comes out of CUPE-Ontario. She celebrates her Jamaican heritage, and is a Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress.
“Sid Ryan, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, is a past-President of CUPE-Ontario, and is former Ontario Tory Leader Tim Hudak’s worst enemy.
“Sharon DeSoussa is the Regional Executive Vice-President in Ontario for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
“Barry Weisleder is the person who organized the rally from scratch. He is a teacher, union activist, journalist and the federal secretary of Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste. (See the text of his speech below.)
“Mark Brown is the Education and Organizing Officer for the Metro Toronto Region of CUPW, and is also a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

“Hockey has its Hall of Fame, and so does Labour.  Buzz Hargrove is a past President of the Canadian Auto Workers. He speaks today on behalf of Unifor, Canada’s newest and biggest private sector union.

“The Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, which generously contributed to the publicity tools that made this rally a success, is represented by a Vice President of OPSEU, Myles Magner.

Fred Hahn - President CUPE Ontario
Fred Hahn – President CUPE Ontario

“The Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario played a key role in promoting the protest. Fred Hahn is the President of CUPE-Ontario, and a long-time fighter for LGBT rights and dignity.

“Liz Rowley is the Ontario leader of the Communist Party and a former school board trustee.

“Carolyn Egan is President of the United Steetworkers’ Toronto Area Council and a member of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council executive.

“Chris Clay is a leader of CUPW in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

“CUPW Union Rep Mike Palecek, based in Ottawa, is here today to sing his new anti-austerity, anti-Stephen Harper song, which debuted on Parliament Hill at the People’s Social Forum rally on August 21.”
The rally chair reminded everyone that the campaign to Save Canada Post continues, and called on people to attend a meeting of the Toronto Organizing Committee to plan the next steps.
Extensive coverage of the Toronto protest featured prominently on that day’s 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news broadcast of CITY-TV.




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“We Can Win This Issue”

The following is the text of the remarks of rally organizer Barry Weisleder:

“Sisters and brothers, it’s great to see such a large crowd here on this beautiful day. Did you enjoy the summer? I did. I spent much of it organizing this rally, and I’d like to tell you why.

“Firstly, I’m sick and tired of Tory lies. Canada Post is profitable. And it could be even more profitable if we had postal banking. We need good jobs. Killing over 8,000 letter carrier jobs makes no sense — unless you are a corporate vulture planning to dine on the dismembered parts of a vital public service.
Secondly, I love the postal workers’ union. The first picket line I walked was with posties in 1972 when I was still a student. CUPW is a militant democratic union – one of the best. It has always led the way. With a wildcat strikein ’65 it won the right to collective bargaining for all public sector workers. It won big wage increases with strikes and walkouts in the early 70s. It gained job security in the ’70s the face of new technology. In 1981 it struck to win maternity
leave for its members, a gain that spread to all organized workers. CUPW has been in the forefront of solidarity campaigns with workers’ struggles, at home and abroad, for generations. That’s why it has legions of allies.
Now is the time to returnthat solidarity, and to stopthe onslaught against public services and workers’ rights. It is also a golden opportunity to boot the Harper Conservatives from office, and to bust up the bosses’ offensive.
That brings me to the third reason. We can win this issue. How do I know? Look at the doctor’s note fiasco. Deepak Chopra made that brainless suggestion because he and Harper are on the defensive.
“They’re feeling the pressure. The plan to terminate home mail delivery is possibly the most unpopular policy of the Tory government. But it’s tied to many others. Like undermining pensions and E.I. Gutting health and safety in the work place. Promoting dirty oil pipelines. Plundering aboriginal lands. Victimizing migrant workers. Sending troops to Iraq. Backing the seige of Gaza. Giving tax breaks to big corporations. Watching our cities descend into the despair of grid-lock and homelessness.
We in Socialist Action believe that the common denominator of global social misery is the destructive and dying capitalist disorder.
There’s a funny saying: “Capitalism is just a phase we’re going through.” Unfortunately, this phase is killing the planet and its inhabitants. Its stale date is well over a century old. We need ways to break the grip of the 0.1%.
The fight to keep our valued postal services, is just such a way. This issue is Harper’s achilles heel. If, together, we can drive this campaign forward, there’s no telling what we can achieve.
“We can bring down the Tories. We can restore and expand public services. Broaden the battle for social equality and a genuine economic democracy. And perhaps, we can shake this rotten system to its core, and bring to birth a cooperative commonwealth in our time. Let’s make the most of it. Let’s fight to win, in solidarity.”

Picket Tory Minister to Defend Postal Services

Picket Tory Minister to Defend Postal Services
All Out September 20!
by Barry Weisleder
Momentum is growing towards a monster mass picket and rally to defend Canada’s postal services. The protest, set for Saturday, September 20, is against Canada Post Corporation plans to terminate home mail delivery. It will be held outside the Toronto constituency office of Conservative Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver at 511 Lawrence Avenue West.
Organizations endorsing the September 20 mass picket now include the Canadian Labour Congress, Ontario Federation of Labour, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, Public Service Alliance of Canada-Ontario, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Brampton and Mississauga District Labour Council, CUPE Local 3903, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, NDP Socialist Caucus, Communist Party of Canada, International Socialists, and Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste.
Socialist Action/LAS initiated this effort, on the heels of a successful picket it convened on a very cold March 15 at the same site.
The September 20 speakers’ list now includes CUPW National President Denis Lemelin, CLC V.P. Marie Clarke Walker, OFL President Sid Ryan, OPSEU President Smokey Thomas, a leader of PSAC-Ontario (t.b.a.), and representatives of other endorsing organizations.
The aim of the protest is to compel the Conservative federal
government and Canada Post Corporation to reverse plans to end home mail delivery, to eliminate thousands of jobs in the postal service, and to
raise the price of postage.
postThe scheme to degrade postal services, to alienate the public towards them, serves the goal of gutting the federal public sector. Within that framework, the rulers strive to trash good jobs, slash postal workers’ pensions, and to break a progressive, democratic union. It is a road that leads to selling the most profitable parts of Canada Post to private sector vultures.
This brazenly broad assault must be stopped. It is a watershed moment for public services and for the workers’ movement across the Canadian state. The need for public resistance is urgent. Protest activity is developing across the country, with rallies, pickets and town hall meetings. Many municipal governments, including Toronto’s City Council, have voted to oppose the replacement of home mail delivery with collective mega-mail boxes.
September 20 is part of that resistance. The message to Eglinton-Lawrence MP Joe Oliver, the Tory Minister of Finance, is that his Conservative federal budget which aims to slash jobs and kill vital public services, while pampering the corporate elite, is unacceptable.
Joe Oliver voted in Parliament against the New Democratic Party motion to maintain door-to-door mail delivery. Seniors and people with mobility problems strongly oppose being forced to collect their mail at a so-called ‘community mail box’, blocks from home, under all kinds of weather conditions.
The resulting elimination of up to 8,000 letter carrier jobs would be a serious blow to young people and to many others seeking decent-paying employment in a time of great economic stress.
Canada Post is not in debt. And it could be even more profitable as a public asset if it provided banking services at postal outlets across the country. Canada Post and the Tory government suppressed a study that shows how providing banking and other services is the way forward. To the consternation of the vast majority of Canadians, the Tories are stealing workers’ pensions, while cutting jobs and services.
If this is the best that the Harper Conservatives have to offer, then they must go. If this is the best that capitalism has to offer, then it too must go. If Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper cannot run a postal service to meet human needs, they should step aside. Let postal workers show you how to run the service – under workers’ control.
Take notice Deepak Chopra, Joe Oliver and Stephen Harper: This fight SArallypostlsrvc201424has just begun. Across the country you are facing a rising torrent of opposition to the placement of mega-mail boxes in every city and town. We will not stop fighting your cuts until we reverse them. We will not stop until we remove you.


SArallypostlsrvc201451*UPDATE: Below is the video showing the picket and rally held recently to defend Canada’s postal service.
    Protest against the plan to terminate door to door mail delivery hit Toronto streets and the mass media on Saturday afternoon, March 15.  Close to one hundred people answered the call of Socialist Action and braved freezing high winds to picket the constituency office of Conservative Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, located at Lawrence Ave. and Bathurst St., a busy uptown intersection.      VIDEO HERE

    Members of more than a dozen labour unions, political parties and community groups rallied to demand that Canada Post Corporation and the Conservative federal government of Stephen Harper reverse the decision to phase out home mail delivery to over 5 million addresses, and refrain from increasing the price of postage.

Protest against the plan to terminate door to door mail delivery hit Toronto streets and the mass media on Saturday afternoon, March 15.  Close to one hundred people answered the call of Socialist Action and braved freezing high winds to picket the constituency office of Conservative Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, located at Lawrence Ave. and Bathurst St., a busy uptown intersection.

    Members of more than a dozen labour unions, political parties and community groups rallied to demand that Canada Post Corporation and the Conservative federal government of Stephen Harper reverse the decision to phase out home mail delivery to over 5 million addresses, and refrain from increasing the price of postage.
    Demonstrators walked in an oblong loop on the sidewalk next to the MP’s office entrance and chanted:  Stop the Cuts at CanadaSArallypostlsrvc201442 Post, Save Letter Carrier Jobs, No Cuts No Price Hikes – Defend Postal Services, and Seniors Demand Home Mail Delivery.
    About one quarter of the crowd appeared to be members of the Toronto Local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).  The rest identified as partisans of UNIFOR, UNITE HERE, OPSEU, CUPE, secondary school teachers, and a host of local groups including Put Food in the Budget and the United Jewish People’s Order.
    Placards signed by Socialist Action, plus a large SA banner were highly visible on the street, and in the TV coverage of the event broadcast by CBC, CTV, CITY-TV, OMNI-TV and CP24.  Participants sported buttons ‘Save Canada Post’ distributed by CUPW, and bought 13 bright yellow buttons produced by SA bearing the slogan ‘Capitalism is Organized Crime’.
    Protest organizer and SA federal secretary Barry Weisleder told the crowd, “The scheme to curtail home mail delivery is part of a plan to gut the federal public sector.  It is part of a plan to shrink postal workers’ pensions and to break a progressive, democratic union.  It is part of a scheme to sell profitable parts of Canada Post Corporation to private sector vultures.”
    SArallypostlsrvc201492Darryl Ellis, President of the Toronto Local of CUPW, pledged that the campaign to save home mail delivery “is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  We will continue to fight until we win.”
Representatives from OPSEU, UNIFOR, PFIB, the NDP Socialist Caucus, UJPO and Youth for Socialist Action also addressed the shivering crowd.
    Weisleder, two days earlier, submitted a written application for a meeting with MP Joe Oliver.  Should the request be granted, organizers would like all the groups involved in the Saturday protest to send a rep to that close encounter with the Tory MP for Eglinton-Lawrence.

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