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Bottles not cans!


April 5, 2015

The strike at Crown Products in Toronto is now over eighteen months old. 120 workers have fought through two hard winters against a ruthless company which is clearly punishing them because they have resisted their vicious attacks. Only two of the original strikers have crossed the line. They have consistently resisted the employer’s concessions.
 
The company had earlier awarded the workers a prize for being the most productive plant in the chain and yet when negotiations started they wanted to implement a two tiered wage structure for new hires.  This would had adversely affected a younger generation of workers who were prepared to work hard for a decent wage. Many of the Steelworkers in the plant were second and third generation. Working for Crown was a family tradition and they were treated like dirt by the company.
 
The CEO based in Philadelphia makes $12 million a year and is more than happy to cut the wages in a profit making company to make the bottom line look even better for the stock holders. Management is hell bent on creating a low wage economy for working people. The callousness and greed shown by Crown is indicative of the mind set of corporate Canada. 
 
Last weekend a monthly day of action took place with rank and file Steelworkers and allies in the broader trade union movement leafleting beer stores across the province. They were asking people to drink their beer in bottles not cans to put economic pressure on the company. The response was overwhelmingly positive with purchasers showing their bottles as they left the store.
 
The company has 140 locations across the globe. They have locked out workers in Ghana and have fired others in Turkey for having the audacity to form a union. The Turkish workers rallied in support of their brothers and sisters in Toronto. The same happened in the United Kingdom and the United States.
 
At this recent day of action members of teachers unions, CUPE and OPSEU came out in support appreciating what the stakes were in this battle between the robbers and the robbed. If Crown gets it’s way here, it will be a signal to both private and public sector employers that this is the time to attack the very heart of our unions.
 
Crown is involved in basic union busting, constantly moving the goal posts in negotiations. They went from a two tiers wage demand to lowering the wages of the entire workplace and stating that they would take back only a handful of those who went on strike.
 
The strikers started occupying Liberal MPP’s offices demanding that the government step in and force Crown to bargain. Other unions such as Unifor came together with the Steelworkers members, putting pressure on the government. Bombardier workers have been regularly on the line.
 
Two weeks ago the Minister of Labour blinked and called an inquiry into the Crown strike. It’s anyone’s guess what will come from this put the public pressure is mounting on the company and workers are staying strong on the lines. They have been actively supporting the TA strike of CUPE 3903 at York University and other labour disputes.
 
The strength of these workers, the 5600 marchers against austerity in Toronto for International Women’s Day, the renewed mobilization of the student movement in Quebec are all signs of the deep seated unrest in Canada and Quebec. Anywhere where people are struggling could become the spark for a larger fight back, as we have seen in other area of the world.

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