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Workers' power can beat the bosses attacks

Carolyn Egan

April 18, 2023
We are seeing working class revolts in France, Greece, the United Kingdom and other areas of the globe. Educators in England overwhelmingly rejected the government’s recent pay raise by 98% and passport workers started a five week strike. This comes after months of work stoppages by a variety of unions representing baggage handlers, bus and train drivers, doctors, border officers and more, standing up against the rising cost of living and cuts to public services.
These should be extended as the momentum grows and more and more workers take to the picket lines with strong public support.
In France, Macron’s attack on pensions has sparked a revolt among trade unionists and the broader population with massive strikes and demonstrations across the country. Millions have come into the streets including workers at oil refineries, schools, docks, ports and transportation. This type of mass protest has not been seen in decades and has become much more than a trade union fight. Students and young people have been involved from the start, which made the government back down on its plan for compulsory national service.
People learn through struggle and gain confidence as protests spread.  A strong push from below in the workplaces has kept pressure on the trade union leaders.
The workers fight in Canada
The same issues are present in Canada. We see the price of groceries and gas, high rents and rising interest rates putting home ownership out of reach for most, alongside attacks on education and the dismantling of our public health system. Life is hard, with the ordinary worker straining to making ends meet and fearing what the future will bring. Racialized communities and women are bearing the brunt of these attacks.
We recently saw in Ontario low wage education workers standing up and fighting back, defying legislation imposing a collective agreement, and ordering them back to work in the face of $4000 a day fines. The members were majority women and from diverse communities. With the threat of a general strike the provincial government backed down.
This came after building trade workers went out across the province rejecting tentative agreements that didn’t give them the wages they deserved. The mood is there among workers to fight. In the private sector unions are winning strong settlements after very high strike votes showing the determination of the rank and file.
That sentiment has to be organized to take on the Ford government’s attacks and the rising cost of living. Years ago the Tory leader Tim Hudak ran on a platform to bring in ‘right to work’ legislation with the intent of dismantling unions, taking a page from the Republicans in the US.
With a lot of pressure from activists and labour councils unions launched a major campaign to connect with members, listening to their concerns, calling stewards assemblies.
Activists set up workplace discussions on lunch breaks and after shifts, networks were developed, weekend meetings drawing large numbers went on for months involving rank and file members in organizing a fight to defeat Hudak’s attacks and in the process building member centered unions. Many of these continued on after he was defeated through the work of activists. This is the type of organizing that has to take place today. The Ontario Federation of Labour has launched the Enough is Enough campaign with demonstrations across the province on June 3. We know workers are willing to fight if organization is there. The Hudak campaign has valuable lessons on how to build at the base and win. 

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