February 14, 2019
Facing the Workers in Quebec
Ruling Elite to
Dismantle Workers' Collective
Copper Smelter Workers Resist Unjust
Disciplinary Measures by Glencore
• Public Service Workers Call Off
and Enter Binding Mediation
• Los Angeles Teachers Resolutely
Challenges Facing the Workers in
In an effort to dismantle the collective defence
workers, workers' organized resistance in defence of rights is
blamed for causing disruption in various sectors of the economy.
Workers' collective defence organizations and organized struggle
defence of rights are said to be an attack on the economy and
workers, who allegedly merely want to make a living and don't
about anything else.
construction sector is one in which concerted attempts are being
by governments to smash workers' collective defence
measures they are taking aim to give construction companies
ability to act with impunity on construction sites so as to
profits no matter what the consequences on the workers'
health and safety and the safety of the public.
Turning truth on its head, the claim is made that
intervention on construction sites in defence of health and
constitutes intimidation against employers and individual workers
just want to work." That was the allegation against Quebec crane
operators when they valiantly refused to show up for work for a
June 2018 to protest a dangerous new regulation downgrading
professional training and threatening the safety of crane
To say the crane operators were using
colleagues who allegedly merely wanted to go to work is a
crane operators were opposed to a regime which demanded they
whatever new regulations the government brings in without due
consideration and investigation of the effects and without having
consent of those directly affected and their
The Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ), the
government mandated to manage labour relations, vocational
workforce management in the sector, claims to have recorded
cases of intimidation carried out by the union against individual
operators. The CCQ did not produce the evidence but said it
may use the information to prosecute workers and their union.
The CCQ constantly refers to the authority it
with the R-20 legislation, the Act respecting labour
vocational training and workforce management in the construction
industry, which contains a number of provisions on
stipulates, "Any person who uses intimidation or threats that are
likely to cause an obstruction to or a slowdown or stoppage of
activities on a job site is guilty of an offence and liable to a
of $1,137 to $11,370 for each day or part of a day
The Act continues, "Any person who uses
that are likely to compel an employer to make a decision
workforce management in the construction industry or to prevent
employer from making such a decision, or otherwise imposes such a
decision, is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine
to $15,373." In addition, union representatives found guilty
Act can be prohibited from exercising their duties for a
The intent is clear: make it ever more difficult
for workers' collective defence organizations to intervene in
of proper working conditions.
striking in connection with this is how the Charbonneau
used in part to portray workers' organizations as criminal,
The Quebec Liberal government created the
in 2011 with the official mandate to examine and eradicate
and corruption in the awarding of public construction contracts
expose links that might exist between this corruption and
party financing, and the infiltration of the construction
by organized crime.
The Charbonneau Commission insinuated that
allied organizations waging concerted actions in defence of the
of workers, which occasionally lead to disruption of activities
sites, are akin to mafia organizations. The Commission asserted
without even looking into the aims behind such actions of the
organized workers or the reasons precipitating their actions, the
causes they were defending and the outcomes they hoped to achieve
through their actions. The Charbonneau Commission's anti-worker
and recommendations were incorporated into some of the amendments
the R-20 legislation.
Meanwhile, many of the constant activities and
seriously disrupt the lives of those in the construction sector,
sometimes tragically resulting in deaths and serious injuries,
unattended and uninvestigated. Those responsible for refusing to
action to resolve problems are not held to account. The ruling
want a situation
where construction workers are fair game for whatever the big
want to do to maximize their private profits.
Similar to how the construction workers in Quebec
being targeted, the Ford government in Ontario is also targeting
professional organizations of nurses, teachers and other
sectors. By reducing members of these professions into voiceless
individuals, all of them are rendered defenceless. The situation
workers today makes it all the more important to have them speak
and strengthen their organized struggles to block such attacks on
unions and open a way forward in defence of their rights and the
1. In Ontario, the Ford government's Bill 66
slanders organized construction workers in a similar way with the
accusation that they are "bankrupting" public institutions such
school boards, colleges, universities, hospitals and
because of the measures and arrangements contained in
"generous" collective agreements. Bill 66 was tabled without
or consent of those directly affected. If the bill passes,
construction workers employed by designated public institutions
removed from those sites where they are now working and any
sites with their negotiated collective agreements declared null
and void. This opens the door to the massive hiring of individual
construction workers in these public sectors without the
a union or a collective agreement. This anti-worker dictate of
government in the service of the financial oligarchy cannot be
considered anything other than criminal.
Stand with smelter workers and
freedom of speech!
Workers at Glencore's Horne copper smelter in
Rouyn-Noranda in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue administrative
of Québec report that management has disciplined ten of
colleagues for participation in a Rouyn Facebook page. Workers
large number of people in Rouyn-Noranda, including workers at the
regularly visit this particular Facebook page.
The Rouyn Facebook
recently had a picture of a young man suffering obvious breathing
problems with the caption "that must be because I worked at the
smelter." The smelter was not named. Some workers at the smelter
responded to the item by clicking "Like" while others left
which is ordinarily what people do when they
visit Facebook pages.
Representatives of the Glencore company summoned
workers of the smelter who had responded to the picture and
them for allegedly violating the global mining and metallurgy
monopoly's Code of Conduct. Disciplinary measures ranged from
suspension to written and verbal warnings. The Noranda Mine
Union at the
smelter is grieving all these unjust and arbitrary measures.
Glencore's Code of Conduct is a lengthy document
covers matters including health and safety, human rights,
environment, taxation, communication, protecting and maintaining
etc. from the point of view and outlook of the company. Workers
that the Code is only referenced when the company takes action
against the workers for not showing loyalty to the company.
effect means that workers are expected to keep silent about any
problems arising at the workplace and any views they may have for
dealing with the problems.
The company goes so far as to monitor Facebook
that workers and people routinely visit, tracking comments for
purpose of exercising arbitrary disciplinary measures against
workers if the company deems they have been disloyal. For
mere mention of problems related to the health and safety of
considered an attack on the public profile and reputation of the
company. Under this dictatorial regime, disloyalty of workers is
as an excuse for the company to refuse to acknowledge problems
and take action to rectify them, and to deprive workers of their
freedom of speech and right to participate publicly and openly in
Facebook is a forum on which people make
Glencore's tracking of workers' Facebook comments and subsequent
disciplinary actions represents an extension of the power of the
monopoly into workers' lives and freedom of speech and
is dangerous to the workers and their community, as the aim is to
into silence, which is not only an attack on their rights but can
turn into a nightmare with deadly consequences within industrial
production such as a smelter.
Workers rightly consider this latest attack of
as totally unacceptable and demand that the company back off from
disciplinary measures against their ten colleagues. Workers have
right to speak out on issues that directly concern them at their
workplace, community and society. To use the power of employment
workers of their freedom of speech and conscience is an abuse of
authority and cannot and should never be tolerated.
The Union of Northern Workers, in a
press release, announced that two days of mediation failed to
tentative agreement between the union representing
public service workers and the Government of Northwest
(GNWT). The union and GNWT did agree to submit their outstanding
issues to binding recommendations from a mediator appointed by
According to the
decision to agree to binding mediation comes from some headway
during the weekend's mediation. Wages, the term of the agreement
issues around job security remain outstanding. Workers went into
weekend talks with demands for wages that allow them to keep
the increases to the cost of living and for the creation of more
full-time jobs with benefits and a pension plan, in opposition to
reality of workers often working for years as relief workers with
access to benefits and a pension plan. Workers also consider the
government's demand for a five year collective agreement too
Earlier, on February 8, the GNWT
to 6 with one abstention to reject a Yellowknife MLA's
calling on the territorial government to move to binding
The union had itself approached the government with a proposal to
settle the dispute with binding arbitration but the government
under the hoax of letting the negotiation process unfold. The
pointed out that the government's offer was unacceptable to the
three years ago and remains so today. Why the government agreed
binding mediation at this time remains to be seen but workers are
calling upon the mediator to address their main demands and
In the period leading up to the cancelled strike,
planned for February 11, the GNWT was extremely provocative
sending documents directly to workers' homes misrepresenting its
and openly calling upon public service workers to cross the
lines during the strike.
The GNWT claims to show respect for public
workers who provide vital services and value that the people of
territories depend upon for their living but instead constantly
misinforms the public as to the economic nature of public service
and social programs. It posits public sector work as valueless
government payment for
the capacity to work of public sector workers as a debilitating
that drains public funds from infrastructure projects currently
consideration. This unscientific nonsense must be denounced and
rejected as self-serving, corrupt and in the service of a
oligarchy that views the north and its resources only for the
amount of social
value it can expropriate from what workers produce.
Workers are both the builders of infrastructure
creators of the value it contains; they are the producers of
wealth through public services and social programs. They have a
claim on the value they create in all sectors of the economy at a
modern standard of living acceptable to workers themselves.
the public service workers of the Northwest Territories in
that their just demands and concerns be addressed.
Teachers rally at Los Angeles city hall, January 19, 2019.
About 34,000 Los Angeles teachers and staff,
more than 900 schools with more than 640,000 students
country's second-largest school district went on strike
and remained out until January 23. After filling the streets
picketing at schools every day and holding massive demonstrations
of more than 50,000 at City Hall, the teachers and staff
important gains. They voted by 81 per cent to accept their
contract and return to work. The Los Angeles unified school
hire more nurses, librarians, and counselors; reduce standardized
testing and random police searches of students; create an
defence fund; hand budget control of 30 schools over to
communities and reduce class sizes.
From day one of the strike, huge majorities of
showed up at their schools every morning to hold the picket
together with parents and students. Then strikers and their
headed downtown for rallies that topped 50,000 the first day
kept growing. The streets were full of joy. All week, everywhere
singing, dancing, spoken word, brass bands and mariachis.
not let the drenching rain daunt them; they suited up in ponchos,
laminated their song sheets and picket signs. As one sign put it,
is the Speed Limit, Not a Class Size." They also made certain
across the city, people were talking about the strike and its
-- in coffee shops, on the bus, in stores.
The teachers took a stand of social
defending the interests of society for fully-funded public
with the nurses, librarians and counselors required, as well as
collective interests for better working conditions, like smaller
classes and wages commensurate with the difficult work they do.
United Teachers of Los
Angeles (UTLA) organized the strike, which had broad support from
parents, students and community organizations.
More counselors and nurses and smaller classes are
directly related to efforts to block the school-to-prison
California ranks 47th in the nation when it comes to
access: there is an average of one counsellor for every 682
students, far exceeding the recommended ratio of one to 250.
the same time, the
district spends $80 million a year on police. The lack of
counselors, nurses, and social workers combined with large
feeds the school-to-prison pipeline. Amir Whitaker, a staff
with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
this way: "It relates to the teachers having large classes: if
forty students and call for help, and if there is no
support, only the police are on hand." Los Angeles has large
African American and Latino students who bear the brunt of police
actions in the schools.
UTLA also called for a moratorium on new charter
schools in the district. The charters are privately run and not
accountable to the public, although they utilize public funds and
often co-located in public school buildings. One in five students
Los Angeles now attends a charter school, and there are more
than 200 such schools in
the district -- one of the largest proportions in the country.
charters are being utilized to undermine unions and eliminate
education and the social responsibility of government to provide
However, in this case, charter school teachers supported the
planned a strike of their own.
At a mass public rally outside City Hall on
January 22, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told the crowd,
did not win because of a single leader." He added, "We did not
because of a small group of leaders. We won because you -- at
than 900 schools across the entire city, with parents, with
community organizations -- you walked the line." He emphasized
an interview, "The creativity and innovation and passion and love
emotion of our members was out on the street, in the communities,
the parks, for everyone to see. And I'm so proud of our members
classroom teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians,
early educators, adult educators -- who took it upon themselves,
record numbers on picket lines," to defend public education and
government accountability for providing it.
At the mass rally on January 22, Secretary
Bargaining Chair Arlene Inouye reviewed the high points of the
tentative agreement, which was published in full on-line:
- A full-time nurse in every school.
nurses will be hired over the next two years.
- A full-time librarian in every middle school
school. The district will hire 82 more librarians.
- More counselors. The district will hire 17
counselors to maintain one counsellor for every 500 middle
high school students. While a case load of 500 is far higher
the needed 1 for every 250 students, it will assist. As
additional funding was secured to lower the ratios for
workers, psychologists and attendance counselors.
- An immigrant defence fund, with a dedicated
and attorney for immigrant families.
- Less testing. The district and union will
committee to cut the amount of standardized testing by half.
- Class size reductions. Gone is the hated
Section 1.5 which allowed the district to ignore contractual
limits on class size. Class size caps can now be enforced, and
class goes over the cap a new class will need to be formed.
for grades 4-12 class limits will be decreased by four over
next three years.
- Progress on charters. The Board of Education
support a statewide moratorium on charter schools -- which is a
positive political step, though it does not mean a Los Angeles
moratorium. The union also won increased notice and voice in the
process where charter schools are co-located in neighborhood
- A 6 per cent raise, with 3 per cent
retroactive to the 2017-2018 school year and 3 per cent
this year, retroactive to July 1, 2018. There will be
re-openers in future years.
- Fewer random searches. The number of schools
not do random searches of students will double from 14
- Community schools. Thirty schools will get this
designation and additional funding. A council of local people
each school's budget, working with the community coordinator (a
- A joint push by the union, the district, and
mayor for more school funding from the county and state. Mayor
Garcetti agreed to endorse the Schools and Communities
initiative on the 2020 ballot, which will close California's
commercial property tax loophole and restore $11 billion in
funding to schools
and other public services.
- Green space. A task force to develop more green
After the rally teachers returned to their school
review and discuss the agreements with their co-workers, and vote
whether to accept it and return to work the next morning. Some
around the city were frustrated at a process they felt was
majority voted yes on the agreement, and returned to their
on January 23.
Strike Blocks Efforts to Eliminate Public School
Los Angeles is the largest U.S. school district
by an elected school board. (The largest district, New York City,
third largest, Chicago, are both governed by mayoral
Year after year, its
board elections have broken spending records. Monopoly forces
to eliminate public education spent $13 million in the last
board election. Most of it came from the Walton family (the
Walmart) and Eli Broad, two of the biggest funders nationally of
charter schools, vouchers, and
privatization. The anti-public schools forces won a majority of
seats on the school board. And after the previous superintendent
resigned early last year for health reasons, that majority
the current superintendent, Austin Beutner. Beutner has no
backing and is a multi-millionaire from Wall Street. His plan,
was to eliminate the unified Los Angles school district and
least half of the students went to privately run but publicly
charter schools. Beutner was previously used to undermine public
districts in Detroit and New Orleans, which now has no public
remaining and no central school district. The Los Angeles strike
block this direction at this time.
As Arlene Inouye explained, "We are a union that
years ago set out on this path. This just didn't happen, you
last 21 months when we've been in negotiations. But four
ago, we set down a path to organize our schools, to bring in
and communities and to have a social justice agenda, an
agenda for all of our students."
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