Tag Archives: Unions

WAM it to the bosses

The Workers’ Action Movement — a fledgling, new, positive force for change, inside and outside the ranks of organized labour – has an ambitious goal. It is determined to break the hold of capitalist austerity and to end the downward spiral of concessions bargaining.
The founders of WAM seek to establish a cross-union, class struggle caucus that is anti-capitalist, anti-austerity, anti-concessions, and pro-union democracy.
WAM strives for change based on policies, not on personalities; to replace misleaders on political grounds; to affirm union democratic principles from the bottom up; and to build an independent, class struggle movement from below that is inclusive, transparent and accountable. That means change to the overall direction of our unions, and support for union activists who battle concessions and anti-democratic practices. Not confined to unionists, WAM aims to work with social justice movements, and welcomes all workers and activists from those movements.

Continue reading WAM it to the bosses

Nationalize the Leamington Heinz Ketchup Plant under Workers Control!

heinz 26-Heinz aerial.jpg
by Julius Arscott
The H.J. Heinz Company, the largest employer in Leamington, Ontario plans to shut the doors on its century old food processing plant in June 2014. The plant, which is Heinz’ second largest facility in the world, manufactures processed foods. It employs 740 full time positions and up to 500 seasonal positions, all members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 459. The closure will also impact local farmers who have grown tomatoes for generations in Southwestern Ontario. It is one of Canadas warmest areas with one of the longest growing seasons, known locally as the ‘Sun Parlor’. The facility was originally built in the area also due to the sandy soil and light rains that provide excellent conditions for growing field tomatoes.
The plan to close the Heinz plant coincides with closures in South Carolina and Indiana, reducing the workforce by 1,350 positions. This move follows the axing of 600 office jobs last summer after a $28 billion takeover by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and the hedge fund 3G Capital, a Brazilian investment firm. Heinz claims that sales in its North American division dropped by 1.4 per cent, or $46 million (U.S.), to $3.2 billion in the last fiscal year. The company claims that it has too much manufacturing capacity to meet the demand for ketchup, sauces, baby food and other products. Production will be shifted to their lower wage facility in Ohio, which will add 250 positions and invest $28 million to expand the plant.
heinz tomatoes-leamingtonHeinz has contracts with more than 40 area farms to buy 40 per cent of Ontarios 500,000-tonne tomato crop. Now farmers are asking for compensation from Heinz for the cancellation of their contracts and for work they have already put into next year’s crops. The farmers who were under contract to supply Heinz with tomatoes are left trying to find a new crop to plant in the spring, and some way to replace the business that has kept their farms busy and profitable for generations. The closure will have a major negative impact on an entire region.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne claims that the Ontario Government “did everything we could” to prevent closure of the plant. The Liberal leader has offered $200,000 to, as she says, ‘help’ the community of Leamington identify and pursue new opportunities for growth. This pittance of $160 per full time, part time and seasonal position has understandably enraged workers who depend on these jobs.
The hands-off approach of the Bay Street parties is no surprise. NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) criticized the government for not heeding warnings of the closure months in advance and pointed out the hypocrisy of the ruling Liberals, saying “Your Liberal government keeps talking about local food,…but stands idly by as processing facilities shut their doors and devastate communities.” Wynne’s response was to attack the NDP for attempting to “control the private sector”, something that she said she would not do.
The NDP should be calling for the government to force Heinz to compensate the farmers for all costs to date and honour their contracts. The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association is on record since 2010 (when other processing companies were failing) with its demand that the government create a Farm Financial Protection Program (similar to that for beef farmers) for horticulture producers. Such legislation should be introduced immediately to protect all farmers from corporate failures.
Tim Hudak, leader of the Provincial Progressive Conservative Party claimed that the plant closed due to high corporate taxes — a cruel joke considering that Ontario has some of the lowest corporate tax rates in North America.
A leader of the UFCW stated “Today’s announcement is another example of a transnational private equity firm swooping in to a Canadian community and sucking up the hard-earned value of an operation that was built by generations of hard-working Canadian and their families”. Paul Meinema, President of the UFCW Canada National Council, said “This latest closure is another strong example of why our federal government desperately needs to review and reform existing foreign investment legislation, and to introduce a new approach that finally puts Canadians and the well-being of their communities first.”
On November 26 the Ontario Federation of Labour Convention adopted a resolution with no teeth, submitted by the UFCW Canada National Council. It calls on the provincial government “to take whatever action is necessary to support continued production at the facility.” A delegate who spoke to this issue urged the labour body to look at social struggles in Argentina and Bolivia that advanced the idea of workers’ control of closed plants, supported by government financial aid, as examples of what should be done in Leamington.dsc_0025_copy
Efforts to protect jobs and benefits for workers need to take a class approach. Canadian nationalism benefits only the bosses. It deflects attention away from the real problem, capitalism. The maximization of private profits, a driving force of the global capitalist system, is the culprit in this drama.
Workers and farmers have power if they unite. In this case, workers in Leamington should occupy the factory, take control of the machinery, and operate the equipment for food processing – a socially useful function.
The corporate attack on the workers and farmers in Leamington
will devastate the region’s economy, a region already reeling from closures in the manufacturing sector in nearby Windsor, Ontario (just across the river from Detroit, Michigan). Workers and farmers create value through their labour in the food industry. Only through public ownership and democratic control can they continue this vital work and sustainably provide a variety of locally grown and locally processed foods to a vast region.

Organize Youths in the schools and in the work place

by Tyler Mackinnon

As young people are organizing at schools and hitting the streets to protest rising tuition fees, what are young workers doing in their fight against the 1%? The unfortunate truth is: not enough. Young workers are among the most exploited in the country.  We are offered very little hope – other than the ‘promise’ that if we work hard, we might be lucky enough to get a better deal. Now is the time for young workers to lead the charge in building unions and showing the corporate bosses that we will no longer be pushed around. That’s what I’m doing, and I invite you to join the effort.

Unionization is no simple task, as management has most of the cards in its favour. Many young workers read the statistics and see only a bleak future. In Ontario, the youth (16-24 years old) unemployment rate is officially a staggering 17 per cent.  Since the Great Recession is far from over, the ability to find employment remains very difficult. However, assuming one is lucky enough to find employment, one faces a barrage of propaganda:  “You don’t realize how lucky you are to get work, and if you mess up you can easily be replaced. Hundreds of other applicants are waiting for a job.”

The fun does not stop there. In additional to facing the usual turmoil at work, such as high levels of stress, caused by rude customers or being constantly watched by management, young workers quickly come to the dark realization that we do not get paid an even remotely liveable wage. Employees are expected to work two or three jobs in order to afford basic necessities such as rent, food, hydro, etc.  Additionally, it is important to note that if young workers need to work two or three jobs it is safe to assume that post-secondary education will be postponed or just tossed out the window.

Now is the time for young workers to unite and demand a bigger fair share of the profits our work creates. For if it was not for those of us who are the work force, not a single product or service would be made, put on the shelf, or sold. We are the backbone of production, but we need to unite to become the brain of production as well. Young workers need to find the courage to overcome the fear tactics thrown at us, and advance change that will improve our desperate situation. We should fight to increase our wages and no longer allow our age to be used as an excuse to pay us less. We should get a decent amount of work hours, instead of the scraps management doesn’t want to assign itself. We must revolutionize our workplace to reflect the goals that we, as a vital part of the working class advance.  That’s what the Youth for Socialist Action stands for.  We are union organizers, fighters against every kind of discrimination, and revolutionary movement builders.  Find out how you can be part of this exciting work.  Join the YSA!