October 26, 2017

Our Security Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All!

Liquidation of Sears Canada
Is Nation-Wrecking


CCAA Is Legalized Theft
Hamilton Support Rally for Sears Workers

Friday, October 27 -- 3:30-5:00 pm
Gather at MP Bob Bratina's Constituency Office
40 Centennial Parkway North, Unit 2

Organized by Local 1005 USW
For more information visit www.uswa1005.ca or click here to read flyer

Our Security Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All!
Liquidation of Sears Canada Is Nation-Wrecking

Quebec National Week of the Unemployed -- October 22-28
Unemployed Workers Demand Significant Improvements
to Employment Insurance

One-Day Strike by Early Childhood Centre Workers in Quebec on October 30
"The Government, with its Austerity Measures, Is Taking Us Back 30 Years. We Are Determined Not to Let this Happen." - Interview, Louise Labrie, Member of National ECC-CNTU Negotiating Committee

Ontario College Faculty Stand Firm for the Rights of All
Demand that the College Employer Council Return to the Bargaining Table
Precarious Contract Teaching Has to Stop!
Rallies Organized Across Ontario to Support the College Faculty Strike
Certain Media Attacking College Faculty's Right to Strike
Online Petitions
Be Vigilant on the Picket Line

Our Security Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All!

Liquidation of Sears Canada Is Nation-Wrecking

Time for a new direction for the economy!

Join the demonstration in Hamilton on October 27, to denounce the state-organized attack on Sears Canada workers and pensioners. The U.S. owned and controlled Sears Canada, in an unholy alliance with the Canadian state has unleashed a broad assault on the livelihoods, pensions and other post-employment benefits of 33,000 workers and pensioners.

Using the state weapon of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), the U.S. imperialist elite in control of Sears Canada and their Canadian state accomplices are participating in the wrecking of Canada. Since June, the U.S. parasites have announced the firing of 17,000 Sears Canada workers and open season on the pensions and benefits of 16,000 pensioners. Through CCAA, the U.S. ownership is liquidating the entire fixed assets plus inventory of Sears Canada comprised of 464 stores, 8 home services showrooms, over 1,500 catalogue and online merchandise pick-up locations, 102 Sears Travel offices and a nationwide home maintenance, repair, and installation network. All livelihoods, pensions, benefits, severance pay, payments due suppliers and contractors, extended warranties, and certain malls and neighbourhood stores are at risk. This nation-wrecking by the U.S. imperialists is aided and abetted by the Trudeau Liberal sellout government.

Since 2005, the U.S. parasites who control Sears Canada have sucked $3 billion in revenue out of Canada while refusing to renew the operations for twenty-first century retailing. During the same period, and especially since the 2008 economic crisis, workers report that no revenue has been reinvested in the company and instead the parasites have intensified their asset stripping, euphemistically called cost-cutting.

The Sears Canada disaster proves again that the current direction of the economy does not work; a new direction of pro-social nation-building is required. This nation-wrecking and annexation into the U.S. Empire is a catastrophe in the making for Canadians. The U.S. parasites view Canadian assets and resources as easy pickings, constantly sucking money and material out of the country, as U.S. Steel has done at Stelco and now with this latest debacle. This must stop!

Canadian workers are charged with the social responsibility to turn the situation around and bring into being a new pro-social direction for the economy under their leadership based on pro-social nation-building not the current sellout anti-people nation-wrecking.

Canada has the working people and resources to build a modern nation that meets the needs of all and guarantees their rights and security.

Demonstrate on October 27 to denounce the liquidation of Sears Canada and the state-organized theft of what belongs to Canadian workers and pensioners by right!

Join the Movement to Build the New!
All Out for Nation-Building with a Pro-social Direction!

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Quebec National Week of the Unemployed -- October 22-28

Unemployed Workers Demand Significant Improvements to Employment Insurance

Defence organizations of the unemployed are holding actions across Quebec during the National Week of the Unemployed, including demonstrations, information sessions and the launch of a newspaper. They are calling for immediate measures to improve unemployed workers' eligibility for benefits, including self-employed workers and mothers who do not accumulate enough hours of work during the year to be eligible for benefits because they were on maternity leave. They also demand significant improvements to broaden the EI regime to lift the unemployed out of their conditions of poverty and harassment.

The Autonomous Movement in Solidarity with the Unemployed (MASSE), which unites several defence organizations of the unemployed throughout Quebec, demands:

- A single eligibility threshold of 350 hours or 13 weeks, instead of multiple thresholds in different regions now ranging from 420 to 700 hours.

- A benefit rate of at least 70 per cent of the wage earned based on the best 12 weeks, rather than the rate of 55 per cent based on the best 14 to 22 weeks (number of weeks depends on the official regional unemployment rate).

- A minimum of 35 weeks of benefits instead of a number that varies according to the number of hours worked and the official regional unemployment rate (weeks of benefits range from 14 to 45).

- Abolition of the exclusions of more than six weeks (for refusing a job offer for example) and the abolition of total exclusion imposed on workers if they are fired or leave their job for a reason considered to be unjustified.

- The return of the pilot project of an additional five weeks of benefits in EI economic regions with particularly high unemployment rates. This is an important demand especially among seasonal workers so as to avoid the "black hole," the period of time when workers have exhausted their benefits and have not yet found suitable employment.

- An EI Fund that is protected so that contributions are used only for paying benefits. It is also an important demand in order to put an end to the theft of the fund by the government, which has created huge "surpluses" in the fund since the 1990s by cutting and reducing benefits and has transferred these amounts (about $ 60 billion) into its general revenue.

- Abolition of the Social Security Tribunal, part of the Harper government's reform of EI in 2012 to 2013. The Tribunal essentially excludes workers, making the appeal process a bureaucratic nightmare. It should be replaced with an appeal process in which workers can make themselves heard and present their case by putting forward real life conditions.

The Trudeau government promised to abolish the Harper government's anti-social reform of the Employment Insurance regime. It has removed some of the most punitive aspects, which were unproductive from the point of view of the government. It has set for itself the agenda to better align the EI program with the constant upheavals in the economy and the need of the biggest employers to have a flexible workforce that they can move around according to their wishes.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is one of the most ardent proponents of this kind of reform, which it calls the search for "the right balance between the need to allow efficient redeployment of the workforce and the protection of workers." One of the most active bodies promoting this type of reform in Canada is the imperialist CD Howe Institute.

The Trudeau government's Finance Minister, Bill Morneau was the President of the CD Howe Institute from 2010 to 2014. The Minister of Family, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos has been an associate researcher for several years. The CD Howe Institute is a strong proponent of an EI system that relies on flexibility and mobility of workers, as an eligibility criterion to receive benefits. Two Institute researchers wrote in a 2011 essay that the benefits the unemployed receive from the EI program "undermine the economic benefits that stem from labour mobility."

After his election as Canada's Prime Minister on October 19, 2015, Justin Trudeau made clear his anti-social intentions in a mandate letter to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. Trudeau wrote that one of the top priorities should be to "Improve our Employment Insurance (EI) system so that it is better aligned with the realities of today's labour market."

Mobility and flexibility of the working class to serve employers is an integral aspect of the marketing of workers' capacity to work. The big employers want a constant pool of workers who are forced to move wherever they are needed and to depress wages through competition for the available work. The imperialist labour market is similar to the slave market for human chattel. They both send the human commodity to wherever it is needed according to the demands of those buying the commodity and not according to the rights and wishes of the human person being sold, whether as a chattel slave or a worker's capacity to work.

Modern workers do not agree with this forced servitude and violation of their rights as human beings. They view the continued existence of a labour market as just as objectionable and backward as a slave market. Contrary to Trudeau's view, a market for human beings cannot serve both the seller of the human being and the buyer, whether the seller is a third party selling chattel slaves or workers, or an agency selling their capacity to work. The human as a commodity is always in a subservient vulnerable position.

Unemployed workers demand compensation at a Canadian standard. Unemployment is not the fault of the unemployed. It is an integral aspect of the current anti-social system to exploit the working class. In opposition, workers are uniting to change the situation, such as during the National Week of the Unemployed. In addition to demanding immediate measures to defend themselves while unemployed, workers are also discussing how to bring into being a new pro-social direction for the economy without a labour market and unemployment, a modern system that empowers workers and guarantees their rights and well-being and security at all times.

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One-Day Strike by Early Childhood Centre Workers in Quebec on October 30

"The Government, with Its Austerity Measures,
Is Taking Us Back 30 Years.
We Are Determined Not to Let this Happen."

One of the many actions by Early Childhood Centre Workers to support their just demands in their negotiations for a new contract. Picture is from June action in Val-d'Or in Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

On October 30, 11,000 workers working in more than 400 early childhood centers (ECC) will hold a one-day strike. In voting across Quebec, these workers voted 94 per cent in favour of a six-day strike mandate to be used at the appropriate time. The workers are members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CNTU). Their collective agreements expired on March 31, 2015. Workers' Forum met recently with Louise Labrie, a member of the national ECC-CNTU negotiating committee.

Workers' Forum: How many Early Childhood Centre workers are currently engaged in negotiations with the government and employers' associations and how are the negotiations organized?

Louise Labrie: There are about 1,500 ECCs in Quebec. We (CNTU) represent a little over 400 centres, about 11,000 workers. We represent the ECC educators, who make up the majority of workers in the centres, but also workers from other categories such as people responsible for food, accounting secretaries, administrative assistants. The overwhelming majority of people working in the ECCs are women, about 98 per cent. Aside from us, the Quebec Federation of Labour and the Quebec Central Trade Union also have members from the ECCs who are also in negotiations. Their numbers are smaller than ours. The rest of the workers are not unionized. The unionization rate in the ECCs is about 40 per cent.

Dealing with the ECCs, we have a multi-level negotiation. A bargaining process has been established whereby we negotiate certain issues at the national level for all the workers who are unionized with us, such as wages, sick leave, vacations and so on. Other issues are more regional, for example the recall list. Those things usually do not include monetary issues but do include regional particularities. We also have a local level, where we deal with the concrete organization of the work, the determination of work schedules, for example. Work schedules are not the same if the ECC has 80 children compared with 30.

So we have national, regional and local tables. Everything that can be standardized in terms of working conditions, we are trying to accomplish as much as possible. We started about fifteen years ago with a situation where our 400 ECCs all had a different collective agreement. We are gradually standardizing what can be standardized. For us it is important because we do not understand why a worker who is in Fermont on the Quebec North Shore would have a different vacation pattern than someone working in Montreal. Historically, certain things we have won have spread to other workers. With wage increases, they usually become applied to all workers, even non-unionized workers.

ECCs are legal private entities, however about 80 per cent of their funding comes from public funds. The share that parents pay to use the service represents about 20 per cent of the budgets. The government is sitting at the negotiating table with employers.

The negotiations are complex. This is one reason why it takes time. We have been without a collective agreement for more than two years. The management side has difficulty organizing itself each time.

WF: What are the main issues in the current negotiations?

LL: Major issues are still unresolved. The employers are demanding rollbacks in our pension plan. We really do not want to go there. The workers are already making only a modest wage; we are not going to tamper with the pension plan to lower that even more. The wage issue is still not sorted out and issues concerning group insurance.

We are also dealing with non-monetary issues such as the participation of workers in general assemblies and in the boards of directors of the ECCs. Some job categories are under discussion in terms of including them in the collective agreement. We want to integrate the category of special needs educator into the collective agreement because we have children with special needs for whom we need support. The employers want to hire educational assistants, which does not meet the needs of those children.

As far as the pension plan is concerned, we have a defined-benefit plan that was put in place in 2003. It is a fairly recent plan, which is doing well. However, the employers asked us to raise the retirement age from 60 to 61 and to pay 50 per cent of past and future deficits. They also want us to accept restrictions for entry into the plan and for workers to contribute to the fund. They tabled a rule that workers must have worked 700 hours before they can start contributing to their pension plan, which would begin on January 1 of the following year. Our workers already have low incomes. It makes no sense to delay their entry into the plan. Our workers are contributing to the plan on a 50-50 basis with the government. The issue of sharing the deficits is new. When we asked the employers to specify the amounts they want to cut by making changes to our pension plan, they refuse to give an amount. They are "ideological issues" according to them. Those kinds of setbacks have been imposed on other pension funds, so they want the same thing to be done to our plan, which as I pointed out is doing well.

WF: The workers of the Early Childhood Centres appear determined to block the rollbacks that are being demanded and to achieve real improvements in their conditions.

LL: Our workers are determined. You have seen the results of the strike votes. The turnout for the vote was also very good, up to 70 per cent in some regions. There have been cases where a whole work team came to take their strike vote. In addition, it should be noted that these votes are taken by secret ballot. Our workers are ready to strike if necessary.

The government austerity measures have hurt the ECCs badly. The government changed the funding formula. It has imposed funding rules that require a certain rate of participation with respect to the number of children who attend a Centre. When there are fewer children, the trend is to cut jobs, to send workers home even for half-days. This greatly affects services. A worker is taken out; the children who attend are then scattered into other groups. Children feel insecure. These are not the conditions we require to prepare our children to enter school. In the last six years, our ECC budgets have been cut by over $300 million.

This negotiation is very important. In the past we have gone through rollbacks and losses. In this negotiation, we do not want to go back any further but rather make headway. The government, with its austerity measures, is taking us back 30 years, to the kind of conditions we used to work under at that time. This is unacceptable. We are determined not to let this happen.

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Ontario College Faculty Stand Firm for the Rights of All

Demand College Employer Council Return
to the Bargaining Table

Rally outside Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development in downtown Toronto, October 25, 2017.

Twelve thousand Ontario college faculty members including professors, instructors, counselors and librarians are engaged in strike action demanding job security and the right to participate in academic decision-making. The striking faculty have entered the 11th day of their job action in high spirits and determined to carry their struggle through to successful completion. They have won the support of many students and community members who have often joined the striking faculty on the picket line.

College management continues to refuse to bargain and finds itself increasingly isolated in public opinion. It clings to unreasonable demands for unfettered use of precariously-employed and underpaid contract employees who are denied their rights to compensation commensurate with the important work they perform and to associate in a union of their choice.

In its refusal to negotiate, the College Employer Council has the support of the Ontario Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne. Wynne promotes the canard that both sides in the dispute are equally responsible for the current impasse, when the college faculty have made it clear from the beginning that they want to negotiate a settlement while the Employer Council refuses.

Premier Wynne said, "What I do believe is that both sides -- both the college administration and all of the people not in their classrooms today -- they want to find an agreement. They really want to get kids back into the classroom." Wynne said this but refused to put pressure on the College Employer Council to restart negotiations.

The Premier's position was echoed by Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Deputy Premier. Responding to an open letter from the College Student Alliance urging the province to have college administrators and striking faculty return to the bargaining table, Matthews refused to demand the Employer Council restart bargaining. Instead, she said, "This Open Letter is a way students are expressing their concern and engaging in the democratic process: just as the collective bargaining process is part of our democratic process. While the uncertainty students face is challenging, I want them to know that previous college strikes have not led to students losing their semester. We are hopeful that both parties will find a solution at the table that gets students back in the classroom where they belong."

Both Matthews and Wynne give the impression that the College Employer Council is an independent body and not a creature of the Ontario government. In this way the government seeks to avoid its social responsibility to ensure Ontario colleges operate in a way that serves the interests and needs of the students and society while respecting the rights of faculty to make decisions affecting their academic programs and to job security through an increase in full-time staff, and in doing so put end to the unfettered use of contract employees. 

(Photos: OPSEU Local 415, $15 and Fairness)

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Precarious Contract Teaching Has to Stop!

Faculty bargaining committee chair J.P. Hornick speaks at Humber College, Lakeshore
campus in Toronto, October 20, 2017.

"This [strike] is really the first time that you've seen 12,000 people get up, vote and then walk on precarious work for their colleagues," said J. P. Hornick, chair of the faculty bargaining committee and labour studies professor at George Brown College. The interests of college faculty are to bring about a fundamental change in the way that Ontario community colleges have operated for the last fifty years. Their demand is for equitable treatment of contract faculty, the transformation of part-time work into full-time work and the right to participate in academic decision-making according to academic criteria.

Faculty are demanding that the colleges return to the bargaining table and negotiate a collective agreement that recognizes the rights of all and solves some of the fundamental problems facing the Ontario colleges system.

College management has arrogantly refused to negotiate and demands that faculty accept management's unacceptable last offer. Don Sinclair, CEO at the College Employer Council, says he does not see the strike ending anytime soon. Speaking on October 23 he said, "I think everybody would like to see it resolved soon. I just don't see it being resolved soon. I think this is going to be fairly protracted."

Exposing the Employer Council's plan to prolong the strike, Sinclair urged students affected by the strike to realize that they will "get through" it and advised students to "continue to be patient."

In contrast, J.P. Hornick wants to deal directly with the issues of concern to the faculty and find a basis for settlement to move forward. She said, "We are very frustrated with council's continued position where they are refusing to negotiate at all. It's an incredible disservice to our students and also disrespectful to the faculty. I am hopeful that we will someday reach a resolution. It's really up to council to make the next move."

Hornick said the union called the mediator on October 20 in the hopes that the council had changed its position but was told it had not. She called on college management to "enter into actual negotiations versus a singular path to settlement. ... The faculty has moved several times. The council has remained steadfast in its reluctance to address any of these issues."

Dave Fasciano, President of OPSEU Local 673 at Collège Boréal said, "The management side has literally refused to discuss anything that we've brought up since the end of July. We've modified our proposals many times to try to get them to engage, and they haven't."

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Rallies Organized Across Ontario to Support the College Faculty Strike

Rally at Mohawk College in Hamilton, October 20, 2017.

Working Class, Students and Supporters in Action to Support
the Ontario College Faculty

College faculty have received concrete support from unions across Ontario. Not only have the representatives of many unions spoken at rallies across the province, several have taken concrete action to honour the faculty picket. In several cities, including Sudbury, unionized transit employees are refusing to cross the faculty picket lines. At other colleges, such as Confederation in Thunder Bay and Algonquin in Ottawa, construction workers have honoured faculty picket lines potentially leaving completion of some projects until the spring.

Mohawk College, Hamilton, October 20, 2017

In Hamilton, faculty at Mohawk College held a rally on October 20, to garner support for their struggle. The union invited all to attend the rally, to talk to faculty about their strike struggle and to lend their voice to the call for a better college system. The rally was attended by executives, members and retirees from Local 1005 USW at Stelco amongst other supporters from unionized workers.

"What a great rally and turnout," said Jake Lombardo, a Local 1005 retiree. "[It's] time the Wynne Liberals get their asses back to the table and negotiate a deal so our teachers and future generations can get back to their studies."

"We know why we are here. We are here to end the exploitation of contract and temporary workers," said Mohawk College OPSEU Local 240 President Geoff Ondercin-Bourne.

Solidarity rally at Collège Boréal, Sudbury, October 20, 2017

In Sudbury, OPSEU Local 672, representing faculty at Collège Boréal, and OPSEU Local 655, representing Cambrian College Academic personnel held a joint solidarity rally at College Boreal. More than 100 college faculty were joined by students, CUPE, the Laurentian University Faculty Association, the International Brother of Electrical Workers, Catholic teachers and others.

Seneca College, York University Campus, October 19, 2017

College faculty members were joined by hundreds of students and allies from across the union movement at a raucous rally on Seneca College campus at York University in Toronto on October 19. Supporters chanted slogans in defence of their rights and marched throughout the campus. Speakers included representatives from the Canadian Federation of Students, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, CUPE Ontario, and the Canadian Association of University Teachers. Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, and J.P. Hornick, chair of the OPSEU college faculty bargaining team, also spoke.

The Ottawa and District Labour Council organized a rally for Ontario college faculty and OPSEU Local 415 at Algonquin College on October 19.

Canadore College faculty picket MPP Vic Fedeli's constituency office, North Bay, October 19, 2017.

Also on October 19, in North Bay, dozens of striking Canadore College teachers picketed PC MPP Vic Fedeli's office to bring attention to their struggle.

Faculty and students held a powerful solidarity rally on the theme "Another Day Longer, Another Day Stronger!" at Humber College's Lakeshore Campus in Toronto on October 20. The rally called for job security for contract faculty, more full-time teaching positions, a real voice for students, faculty and staff in how our colleges are run, and a commitment to quality education for the 500,000 students at all 24 community colleges across Ontario. The rally was attended by representatives of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, the Ontario Federation of Labour, and the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Humber College, Lakeshore Campus, October 20, 2017

College faculty, students and supporters from all over the Greater Toronto Area rallied together outside the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development offices in downtown Toronto on October 25, in support of faculty's Better Plan for the Ontario College system. They demanded that the College Employer Council return to the bargaining table and negotiate a collective agreement with college faculty that solves many of the problems facing faculty and students.

Rally at Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Toronto, October 25, 2017

Students and faculty have no plans to ease up on their actions. At Confederation College in Thunder Bay, a rally called "Students and Alumni Stand with Confederation College Faculty" is being organized. Another rally is planned for St. Clair College in Windsor.

Students are also organizing events to support college faculty and bring public attention to the issues affecting the college system. In Toronto, a Student Rally and March is planned for November 2 at 12:00 noon outside the Office of Deb Matthews, Deputy Premier and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development at Bay and Wellesley. The rally and march is being organized by Centennial College Students and OPSEU Local 558. The march will conclude at Queen's Park.

A group of students are organizing student solidarity with the striking faculty at George Brown College. They plan to meet each week at a local coffee shop and walk over together to join the faculty on the picket line. They are calling on students and workers to unite to defend full-time, quality work.

(Photos: Workers' Forum, OPSEU, M. Magner, C. Dawson)

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Certain Media Attacking College Faculty's
Right to Strike

A number of media outlets have been stirring up trouble. Some media keep talking about "both sides" needing to bargain. This repeats the irresponsible line of the Wynne government. On this the people should be clear. The College Employer Council is stonewalling.

One media outlet in Sudbury printed an article on the second day of the strike, which spoke of a number of difficulties facing college students as a result of the job action. Such articles are meant to destroy public opinion in support of the faculty, dissuade people from discussing the issues with faculty members and arouse students to oppose the teachers' just position. The article in question was not factual but based on a press release put out the week before the strike began by a group calling itself the College Student Alliance. It warned of potential student problems if a strike should occur. The media outlet picked this up to disinform the people.

Another media outlet ran a long article on the difficulties of international students with their high tuition fees and potential extra living expenses if the school year were to be extended because of the strike. The media do not usually dwell on the difficulties facing international students, which are issues they face all the time, including the fundamental injustice of charging international students higher tuition in the first place.

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Online Petitions

Over 100,000 people have signed an online petition demanding a tuition refund for each day missed in the Ontario college strike. One thousand people have signed another petition demanding that Don Sinclair, the CEO of the College Employer Council, Sonia Del Missier, chair of its negotiating committee, and the presidents of the 24 colleges donate their salaries to a student bursary fund for the duration of the strike. A third petition, originating in Thunder Bay, calls on faculty to reject any forced vote on management's last offer at a time dictated by management. This arbitrary power was extended to management in the 2009 changes to the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act.

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Be Vigilant on the Picket Line

Union organizers remind everyone to watch out for troublemakers attacking the picket line. College management's decision not to attempt to conduct classes without full-time faculty has significantly reduced tension on the picket lines. Faculty members have demonstrated in three previous strikes that management cannot operate the colleges without the full-time faculty.

However, picketing still has its dangers. One picketer was injured when he was knocked over by a car on October 19, at Northern College in Kirkland Lake by a motorist running the picket line. The motorist did not stop. At Mohawk's Fennell campus on October 23, one teacher was hit by a car whose driver then got out and assaulted the picketer. These incidents recall the tragic death of Professor John Stammers who was killed during the 2006 strike by someone running the picket line at Centennial College in Scarborough. No police charges were ever laid in that incident.

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