Tag Archive - unions

Election reflection: Three questions for activists

The editors of New Socialist asked three activists Hassan Husseini, Niloofar Golkar and Russell Diabo to explain what the election of a Liberal majority means for their areas of social justice work. We're afraid, but not surprised, to hear that they are deeply sceptical that real progress in labour, environmental and indigenous causes will follow. We may have a prime minister who says some of the things people want to hear, but the Liberal past and current record speaks for itself. 

Toronto Politics in the Year of the Lockout

By Alan Sears

We are still very early in 2012 but so far it seems to be shaping up as the Year of the Lockout.

Londoners Vow to Keep Door-to-Door Mail Delivery

Canada Post Corporation management is moving forward with its project of eliminating door-to-door postal service across Canada and Quebec. If it's completed, it will deprive millions of people of a valued service and thousands of postal workers of their jobs. While this move is very unpopular, in most places not a lot has been done to turn widespread pro-door-to-door sentiment into active opposition. London, Ontario is one city where efforts to build an active campaign around defence of door-to-door have been more successful. We are republishing this article on the campaign in London to give readers a sense of some of the community mobilization tactics being used there. Such campaigns are important not only because they have more potential when it comes to defending public services but also because they can show in practice that there's an alternative to just waiting for the next election. To quote from an article we published earlier this year, "It is through engaging with social movements that people develop new political skills and confidence and are exposed to new political perspectives about how other struggles and how society works." With the federal election coming up later this year, it's important to bear that in mind.


Lessons from the CUPE 3902/3903 Strikes at UofT and York

By Umair Muhammad

The simultaneous strikes at the University of Toronto and York University have come to an end. Teaching and Graduate Assistants at both universities (joined in the beginning by Contract Faculty at York) walked picket lines through much of the month of March after contract negotiations with their respective employers broke down.

Following repeated avowals that it could not possibly provide what was being asked of it, York ended up agreeing to meet all of the major demands made by its striking workers. In the case of the strike at UofT, the outcome was not as decisive.

Toronto Municipal Workers Under Attack: An Interview

Over 25 000 unionized workers at the City of Toronto, members of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Locals 79 and 416, along with Toronto Public Library workers in CUPE Local 4948, are under attack by right-wing mayor Rob Ford. A lockout seems likely and will be a "historic test for labour." In late December 2011, David Camfield discussed the situation with two members of CUPE 79, Julia Barnett and Peter Lynch.

Student Power, Worker Activism and the Democratic University

By Alan Sears

There are some very important campus struggles unfolding in early March 2015.

Rebuilding the Labour Movement One Worker at a Time

By Mostafa Henaway

The recent article by David Camfield and Salmaan Khan highlights the increasing urgency to rethink the state of the labour movement. Six years after the financial crisis, organized labour is still on the defensive. Yet as the authors point out "the weakness or absence of workers' organization reveals a movement in need of reinvention." But we also need to think about how we rebuild a militant labour movement at the point of organizing, among the rank-and-file, and not simply look at theory and strategies. Activists and organizers need to think about reinventing the labour movement almost one worker at a time. 

The 2014 BC Teachers’ Strike: Weathering a Perfect Storm

By Lisa Descary

It is hard to imagine that anybody who strongly supports public education in British Columbia was thrilled when the BC Liberals pulled off an unwelcome, last-minute election victory in 2013. Given the Liberals' history of failure to address the basic needs of the public school system, it was plain to see that more trouble was on the horizon. But this time teachers would not just face the ongoing ebb and flow of government cut-backs and attempts at privatization that our union has to push back against, but a perfect storm that would test us like never before.

Lessons for North American Labour from Workplace Organizing Abroad

Review of New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class-Struggle Unionism, edited by Immanuel Ness, Oakland (PM Press, 2014)

By Steve Early

Reinventing the Workers' Movement

By David Camfield and Salmaan Khan

The workers' movement in Canada and Quebec is in a state of disarray, unable to deal with ongoing attacks on the diverse working class. Whether unionized, non-unionized, temporary, racialized, women or indigenous workers, the weakness or absence of workers' organization reveals a movement in need of reinvention. What follows is an introductory piece meant to open discussion on the state of the workers' movement today. We plan to publish responses and other articles that add to the discussion. We invite readers to respond directly to this opening article with reference to some of the key questions and concerns it raises (or others that you think it ignores). Responses do not have to be long (between 1000 and 2000 words) and can be sent to website[at]  Shorter comments posted below the article on the site are also welcome, as always.

Should Radicals Care About Unions?

By David Camfield

People in Canada who want deep-rooted social change are divided when it comes to unions today. While many are pro-union, it's not uncommon to run into dismissive or simply hostile attitudes too.

Toward a New Labour Politics

By Maryann Abbs

Review of David Camfield, Canadian Labour in Crisis: Reinventing the Workers' Movement
(Winnipeg: Fernwood, 2011).

BC Teachers Strike 2014

By Lisa Descary

It's July in Greater Vancouver. Birds are singing, the sun is shining, and BC public school teachers like me are signing up for picket line shifts. Yes, that's right: I am walking the picket line in July, a time when my school is not even in session. And I don't even teach summer school. How did this happen?

A Major Blow to the Right to Strike in Nova Scotia

By David Bush

In the dead of night on March 31 the Liberal government of Nova Scotia skulked into the provincial legislature and introduced essential service legislation, Bill 37, that stripped nearly 40 000 workers of their right to strike.

Hassan Husseini's CLC Challenge

By Cindy McCallum Miller

This year's Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) convention might be worth attending after all. With a presidential challenge in the air, labour leaders will have to trade in their silk shirts for a pair of overalls to show they still are connected to the working class in order to seek the support of delegates. But it will take more than a fashion change to rebuild the dormant and disillusioned labour movement. That is what activists hope challenger Hassan Husseini will bring to the House of Labour.

What's at Stake at Canada Post?

By Cindy McCallum Miller

Canadians embrace the urban myth that postal workers strike regularly, usually at Christmas and always over money. That's as far from the truth as believing Stephen Harper is a feminist. The last pan-Canadian strike by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) was in 1997 but that will soon change.

What Happened in Wisconsin?

By Tessa Echeverria and Andrew Sernatinger

On a cold January day in Wisconsin, the two of us sat over a couple of cups of coffee and started talking, like many others, about what was happening in the world and remarked on the chain of revolts across Europe and North Africa. We got up to leave and passed a copy of January's Economist magazine, the cover reading "The Battle Ahead, Confronting the Public Sector Unions." We crossed East Washington Avenue, a long stretch of vacant manufacturing buildings in Madison, and asked each other, "When is it going to be our turn?"

The European Workers' Movement: Dangers and Challenges

By Murray Smith

With the onset of the world economic crisis, the European workers' movement finds itself in a new phase, one that is replete with dangers and challenges. It is important to underline that we are in fact in a new situation and not just a continuation of the previous period.

Unifor's Founding Convention: The Predictable and the Unexpected

By Lindsay Hinshelwood

Over the Labour Day weekend two of Canada's largest industrial unions, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP), merged to become the country's largest private sector union, Unifor.

A Movement in Trouble and a Perspective for Change

By David Camfield

The fall of 2010 saw millions of private and public sector workers and students in France take to the streets, walk out on strike and blockade roads and oil refineries.

An Invaluable Book for Teachers

Review of Lois Weiner, The Future of Our Schools: Teachers Unions and Social Justice (Haymarket, 2012)

By Lisa Descary

Labour-Community Solidarity and Climate Change

By Gene McGuckin

This is the slightly edited text of a presentation to CEP BC Provincial Council in Vancouver on April 27, 2013.

The Battle of York

By Xavier Lafrance

On January 29, 2009, 85 days after it was launched, the longest strike in the Canadian university sector outside of Québec came to an end. This was a strike by some 3400 contract faculty, teaching assistants and research assistants employed by York University and unionized under the banner of CUPE 3903.

Brazil: A Tradition of "State Unionism"

By José Luís Rojo

Brazil's workers' movement is the largest and most powerful in the Americas, despite the setbacks it has suffered from the attacks by both employers and the neoliberal government of President Lula da Silva of the Workers' Party (PT). On June 5-6, some 4000 people including 3200 delegates showed up to the "Congress of the Working Class" (referred to in Portugese as Conclat) held in the city of Santos. The aim of the congress was to unite left-wing unions and other working people' organizations in a new central body, as an alternative to the two established union federations whose leaderships are loyal to the Lula government. Unfortunately, the congress was a setback, with the leaders of the Conlutas association using their majority of delegates to pass key motions opposed by the Intersindical group instead of seeking a compromise consensus to unite the forces gathered at the congress. As a result, a large minority of delegates walked out of the congress. A good article on the congress is available in French and Spanish. The following article is a useful introduction to the union movement in Brazil today.

What Strategy for the Big Union Centrals?

By Pierre Mouterde

In the name of "deficit reduction," governments and other public sector employers across the Canadian state are attempting to extract concessions from public sector workers and weaken the services they deliver. The Common Front of Quebec's public sector unions is currently in negotiations for contracts covering 475 000 workers. The employers are still showing no sign of moving to meet union demands, but the union leaderships have not been preparing for a strike and continue to negotiate despite the lack of progress at the bargaining table. This article takes a look at the situation. We will be running more articles about public sector unions in future. -- NS.

Teachers' Strikes and the Fight Against Austerity in Ontario

By Murray Cooke

On January 3, Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten announced that she will be imposing concessionary contracts on the province's teachers. This is a drastic attack on collective bargaining rights that the teachers have said they will fight. It follows on the heals of the Liberal minority government's Bill 115, "An Act to Implement Restraint Measures in the Education System," passed last September with the support of the Conservatives.

Where is the Union Movement in the Olympic Resistance?

 By Gene McGuckin

It’s time for someone to mention the elephant that’s not in the room.

The Continuing Global Slump

By David McNally

This article will be the afterword to the forthcoming Danish translation of the author's book Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance -- NSW.

Against the Right: Defending Public Services in Quebec

By Marie-Eve Rancourt

This is the third article in our series about movement organizing in Quebec today (our article on Profs Against the Hike is here and our article on Montreal-Nord Republik is here).

The CAW-CEP Merger: A Political Reflection

By Bruce Allen

The approaching merger between the Canadian Autoworkers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) will create the largest private sector union in Canada with over 300 000 members employed in 22 sectors of the economy. As such it has the potential to profoundly affect the political direction of both the labour movement in this country and ultimately the political future of Canada.

What is the ANC and Where is the Left in South Africa?

By Chris Webb

About a month ago I stood with some 200 striking farm workers in South Africa’s Hex River Valley, a rich agricultural region that produces table grapes for export. The workers were on strike against severe pay cuts and outsourcing, which came about when a major fruit export company took over the farm from its previous owner. The workers were a mixed group. Some were Zimbabwean migrants, but the majority were Xhosa speakers from the more impoverished Eastern Cape, where 72 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Most of them currently lived in the valley’s informal settlements, expanses of matchbox houses and zinc shacks on the dusty ground between the grape farms. As we marched toward the farm, the workers began to sing struggle songs praising the African National Congress (ANC) and the role of struggle leaders like Oliver Tambo and Chris Hani.

Profs Against the Hike, or a New Beginning for Faculty Political Action

By Anne-Marie Le Saux and Philippe de Grosbois

During the Quebec student strike this year, CEGEP and university teachers opposed to the tuition fee hike that triggered the student mobilization organized themselves in a network, Profs Contre La Hausse (Profs Against the Hike, PCLH by its French initials), to take action in solidarity with students and against the government's agenda.This organization, independent of union structures, was an important development. We are glad to present this article about PCLH, which was written before the final phase of the student strike -- NSW

Ontario Teachers Under Attack: It's Our Turn Now

By Jason Kunin 

Like passengers on the upper deck of the Titanic who could order drinks and mill about in their tuxedos a good hour after those in the lower decks had drowned, we teachers in Ontario have spent the past eight years relatively insulated from anti-labour attacks that have affected workers in virtually every other sector, from garbage collectors to postal worker to the custodial and secretarial staff we work side-by-side with in our schools. 

Moving Forward After the Elections in Greece Part II – Building a Working Class Alternative


This is Part II of Kokkino's statement after the June elections in Greece, revised and slightly abridged from the version published in International Viewpoint. Kokkino is a revolutionary socialist organization in Greece, which has been in the throes of a major debt crisis since 2009.

Kokkino is part of the broader Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which is the main force against the austerity measures being imposed on Greece by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a condition of a proposed bailout. SYRIZA's anti-bailout stance resulted in a dramatic growth in its popular support in the run-up to the recent elections - from just under 5% of electoral votes in May to 27% in June.

Part I of this statement offers an analysis of the election's political outcome. The final sections, reprinted here, focus on strategic questions for the radical left in Greece. Although the context is quite different, there is much to be learned from the experience of major social mobilization in Greece since the eruption of the debt crisis. - New Socialist 

Social Blindness: the Union Bureaucracy's Ultimate Sickness

By Rene Charest

In this year's massive and inspiring social movement in Quebec, union mobilizations have been notably weak. We are glad to present an article written for us by Quebecois activist Rene Charest that looks at this important problem -- NSW.

The student movement in Syria and its role in the revolution

By Khalil Habash

Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, students have played an important role in the  popular movement against the regime of Bashar al Assad.

Editorial: Why Greece's June Elections Matter to All of Us

The final opinion polls before the June 17 parliamentary elections in Greece report that SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) has the support of between 25 and 31.5% of voters, up from the 16.7% it won in the May 2012 elections, when it stunned many people by leaping to second place among Greece's many political contenders. It's possible that SYRIZA could come first this time.

Red Square, Everywhere: With Quebec Student Strikers, Against Repression

By Xavier Lafrance and Alan Sears

The Charest government has turned to repression to try to break the largest and longest student strike in Quebec history. Students had already endured heavy-handed policing, including hundreds of arrests and brutal attacks by riot cops on campuses and in the streets. The new strikebreaking legislation, Bill 78, is a brutal clampdown on the right to organize collectively and on freedom of expression. The protest plans for any demonstrations of more than 50 people must be cleared with the police in advance of any gathering, or the action will be considered illegal.  Individual students, staff or faculty members who advocate the ongoing strike action risk harsh penalties, and student unions or university employees unions who organize or support ongoing strike activity will face heavy fines.

Massive Student Upsurge Fuels Major Debates in Quebec Society

By Richard Fidler

A crowd estimated at 250,000 people or more wound its way through Montréal April 22 in Quebec's largest ever Earth Day march. They raised many demands: an end to tar sands and shale gas development, opposition to the Quebec government's Plan Nord mining expansion, support for radical measures to protect ecosystems, and other causes. And many wore the red felt square symbolizing support to the province's students fighting the Liberal government's 75 per cent increase in post-secondary education fees over the next five years. The Earth Day march was the largest mobilization to date in a mounting wave of citizen protest throughout the province.

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