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Steelworkers on Labour Day

By: 
Carolyn Egan

September 4, 2014

As hundreds of Toronto Steelworkers marched along Dundas St to meet the annual labour day parade a middle age couple standing in front of the Art Gallery raised their fists in support. The man ran up to us and said that they were from Ohio and it boosted their spirits to see workers proudly taking the streets.
 
He explained that they had been through tough battles in their state and was shocked to hear that we had spent the last year fighting off  right to work policies of the Conservative Tim Hudak. “How could this be happening in Canada too!” He spoke about how they mobilized in their workplaces and communities to overturn the anti-worker legislation put in place by their Tea Party legislature.They won the referendum which was an inspiration to workers across the US.
 
More workers turned out for the traditional labour day march than we have seen in years.  In the Steelworkers members felt that one of the reasons was the Saturday courses that had been going on since June 2013, “Workers Rights and Their Unions.”  It was part of the campaign by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council to rebuild our unions from the bottom up, connecting to the membership.
 
We took advantage of this opening and hundreds and hundreds of rank and file members, those who rarely partake in union activities came out.  So many of them told us that they never really understood much about the union and they have now become much more active. They’ve become “proud to be union” as one said.
 
There are huge battles ahead because the corporate powers have been running roughshod over workers. It is inspiring to see the teachers in British Columbia standing up to the Liberal government. They have followed the example of the successful Chicago teachers strike a few years back, putting the needs of the students first.
 
Class size is one of the key issues and this is rallying the support of parents as well as students. The teachers have been in negotiations since June to avoid a strike but the government has refused to move on the important questions at stake. The bringing together of jobs and services is a successful strategy to win broad support.
 
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has taken up this same tactic in their fight to stop the Harper government’s attempt to do away with home delivery. A recent financial report has shown that Canada Post has made a significant profit in the last period which shows that they are trying to cut both services and 8,000 jobs in an ideologically driven campaign against workers and the public.
 
September 6th was the one year anniversary of the strike by 120 Steelworkers against Crown Holdings in Toronto. They have held strong through a tough winter fighting against a two-tier system which would penalize new hires, the next generation of workers. Because they have stood up the company has now said that it will only bring back a small number of the strikers and keep the scabs at work.
 
It is absolutely outrageous.  The line is strong and an international campaign has been building support.  The union is urging everyone to buy their beer in bottles not cans to put pressure on the company. We have to support the Crown workers, CUPW and the BC teachers. Any win by workers today can give confidence to others that the austerity agenda can be pushed back.

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