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February 28, 2014 - No. 20

Should Governments Pour
Public Money into Privately-Owned Chrysler?

The Right and Courage to Say No!

Should Governments Pour Public Money into Privately-Owned Chrysler?
The Right and Courage to Say No!

Steel Not Steal!
U.S. Steel Cuts Back on Salaried Employees - Local 1005 USW
U.S. Supreme Court Attacks Workers' Rights

2014-2015 Quebec Budget
A Budget in Contradiction with the Needs of a Modern Society
Austerity and Prosperity
Key Measures in the Budget

Speaking Tour by Haitian Human Rights Defender, Attorney Mario Joseph
Ten Years After Haiti's Coup d'Etat: The Human Rights Record  - Canadian Haiti Action Committee

Should Governments Pour Public Money into Privately-Owned Chrysler?

The Right and Courage to Say No!

The CEO of Chrysler Sergio Marchionne has been speaking to the mass media asking Canadians to agree with pouring public funds into his private company and forcing autoworkers to accept concessions. To be sure, this is nothing new. Billions of dollars from the public treasury have gone into Chrysler's private coffers for years and autoworkers have made enormous concessions.

Through the media, CEO Marchionne attempts to convince Canadians and autoworkers that no alternative is possible to paying the rich and forcing workers to take concessions. The main thrust of his argument is that all governments throughout the world pay private auto monopolies to build and maintain plants, and autoworkers everywhere are giving concessions so Canada and Canadian workers must do so as well or risk losing auto production altogether. Everybody does it so then must you, goes the neo-liberal refrain.

Marchionne declares in essence that capitalism has sunk into such an incoherent abyss that the state must funnel public money to the rich and workers must lower their claims on the value they produce or else the owners of capital will destroy the economy. Yet even with public funds and concessions, no guarantees exist. The federal, Ontario and U.S. governments poured billions of public money into what Marchionne calls old Chrysler, and workers gave huge concessions but it did not survive beyond 2009. He says new Chrysler, which is now controlled by private shareholders of the European monopoly Fiat, is not responsible to pay back any public funds received by old Chrysler and workers must make further concessions. So on it goes in a downward spiral that gives Canadians pause and much to think about.

In the dark world of gangsters, when people are "made an offer they can't refuse," the immediate issue is to survive as best one can. But within the situation, the search is on for an alternative to extortion because existing under constant threats, anarchy, violence and lack of control over the direction of one's life is no way to live. It is not human! Humans have always battled to find an alternative to a bad situation. The struggle to find and implement an alternative created society, first to escape the brutality of nature, and then move forward through class struggle to the people's empowerment. No reason in the world suggests that progress ends with Marchionne's threats and drivel of no alternative to wrecking manufacturing, paying the rich and workers making concessions.

The right and courage to say No!

The power to deprive the gangsters of their power to extort!

Great feats are accomplished when people summon up the courage to say No! An alternative emerges out of the No! Canadians refuse extortion as a way of life and do not accept the anti-human line of no alternative. The struggle centres on acquiring the power to deprive Marchionne and others of his ilk of their monopoly power to extort what they want and wreck Canada's economy.

Canadian autoworkers and their allies will continue to produce automobiles with or without Marchionne and his private Fiat Empire. If Marchionne refuses to recognize the rights of Canadians to an automotive sector that produces for the benefit of Canada and its working class and not against them, then production will proceed without his private empire. Canadians will find a way to move production in a new direction without the suffocating presence of Marchionne and his rich patrons.

Canadians should draw a line in the snow and declare that the private monopolies have gone too far and must stand down. Canadians are determined to empower themselves and create a public authority with the political power to deprive the auto monopolies and others from selling products in Canada unless they also produce them here while recognizing the rights of the working class. Canada has all the raw material and expertise it needs for workers to produce most modern commodities from scratch. Canadians do not want or need dictators such as Marchionne issuing threats and ultimatums. The sum of the public capital already given to the auto monopolies is more than enough to begin a public enterprise of comparable size to what now exists.

Canadians are a modern educated dignified people who want to decide on the direction of their economy and society and exercise control over them. They do not accept the helpless feeling when somebody tells them a bad situation is to be made worse unless they fall on their knees and give up their dignity and humanity. Canadians did not transform this country into a modern life and world without the determination and ability to solve problems and find an alternative to the difficulties standing in their way, an alternative that carved out a new direction forward.

Canadians say No! to Marchionne's boorish threats and ultimatums and are determined to find an alternative. Canadians say No! to pouring public money into private monopolies. Workers say No! to concessions and declare firmly that concessions are not solutions! The people say No! to the monopoly wrecking of their socialized economy and country. The people are determined to acquire the political power necessary to deprive the global gangsters of their power to deprive Canadians of their rights.

No to Extortion and Ultimatums!
Stop Paying the Rich!
Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
Who Decides? We Decide!
Who Controls? We Control!

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Steel Not Steal!

U.S. Steel Cuts Back on Salaried Employees

On February 3, U.S. Steel sent out a letter to employees (see text below) claiming it needs to make layoffs in order to be profitable. The jobs which are being eliminated belong to salaried employees at all levels, including foremen, supervisors, secretarial staff and some upper management between Hamilton Works and Lake Erie Works.

The ratio between salaried employees and production workers is very high: 2 to 1, an issue which was previously raised by Local 1005 to point out how unsustainable it was to think that two production workers should be sustaining one salaried employee. What are all these salaried people doing, 1005 asked? We still don't know. But it is clear that this announcement is related to the announcement about the end of steelmaking production in Hamilton. If steelmaking were to start up the Company would have to hire about 400-500 workers and some of the salaried employees would be used there. About 50 salaried people were let go right after the announcement in October 2013, and this is the next step for U.S. Steel.

Before the announcement there were about 800 salaried employees between the Hamilton and Lake Erie plants. There are 600 workers, members of Local 1005 and about 900 workers affiliated with Local 8782. When the lockout ended at Lake Erie, U.S. Steel had lost about 250 workers due to retirement and quits. The Coke Ovens department is still not running at Lake Erie which will require about 100 additional workers.

Text of U.S. Steel's Letter

Dear fellow employees:

As you know, our company is deeply involved in Project Carnegie, a global initiative to streamline the way we run our business in the pursuit of financial sustainability.

After taking a very close look at our operations for opportunities to make them more profitable and improve our cost structure, we have made the difficult decision to reduce our non-represented employment levels at U. S. Steel Canada by 175 salaried employees. We are committed to informing all affected employees by end of day Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014.

The reduction is a part of an across-the-board, company-wide program to reduce high administrative costs, This decision was not made lightly, but it is necessary to control our costs and help move our company into an era of sustained profitability.

Outplacement resources from the federal and provincial governments as well as the company will be available to impacted employees.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our employees for their dedication and commitment to the company and your efforts to manufacture the highest quality value-added steel for our customers.

I encourage you all to remain focused on our core values, particularly safety, as we move through this transition.

Mike McQuade President and General Manager U. S. Steel Canada

(Information Update #4, February 6, 2014)

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U.S. Supreme Court Attacks Workers' Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an outrageous ruling on January 27 according to which workers will not get paid for the time it takes them to put on work clothes and safety equipment. This ruling not only deprived steelworkers of their rights, it denied the existence of basic economic law. All nine justices ruled that the work-time steelworkers spend donning and doffing required protective equipment within a U.S. Steel plant in Gary, Indiana is not part of the working day and therefore produces no value.

The personal protective equipment (PPE) that the steelworkers must don and doff includes, according to the ruling, "a flame-retardant jacket; pair of pants, and hood; a hardhat; a snood [headgear]; wristlets; work gloves; leggings; metatarsal boots; safety glasses; earplugs; and a respirator."

Without donning the PPE, the steelworkers cannot perform their jobs. This means the equipment itself forms part of the value of the work they do in a similar fashion to tools and machinery. The value of the PPE and the work-time spent putting it on and taking it off is transferred into the steel the workers produce. Without the PPE and the work-time involved in donning and doffing it, steelworkers would produce no steel and its equivalent value.

U.S. Steel seizes the steel and the value steelworkers produce, as the private property of the owners of the monopoly. This includes the value of the PPE transferred to the steel during the production process, which is the PPE's depreciation through wear and tear and the work-time required in donning and doffing it.

The Supreme Court ruling deprives steelworkers of their rightful claim on the value they produce and reproduce through their work-time. The anti-worker judgement could become a precedent to deprive workers of their rightful claim on any portion of the working day such as rest or lunch periods, downtime, walking to other workstations or work-time spent on duties not related to their regularly scheduled work.

The ruling contradicts a 1946 Supreme Court explanation of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act that "the statutory workweek includes all time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer's premises, on duty or at a prescribed workplace... [Workers must be paid even for activities such as], putting on aprons and overalls [and] removing shirts... These activities are clearly work." Partly due to the immense size of many modern workplaces, these judgements on work-time were clarified in the federal Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947. This law required companies "to pay wages for all the time that passes from when a worker walks in the [company] door to when the worker walks out the door."

The recent neo-liberal ruling is not without monetary consequences for the present and former 800 steelworkers at the U.S. Steel Gary mill. Justice Antonin Scalia, who delivered the opinion, wrote, "In the aggregate, the amount of time -- and thus money -- involved is likely to be quite large."

Local 1005 USW in its weekly newsletter, Information Update, writes, "Workers should note that this was a state-organized attack on their rights. Not only is the Supreme Court a state institution, the Obama executive supported U.S. Steel's court case with money and lawyers. Also, employers' groups mainly in the food industry actively lobbied and intervened to deprive workers of their rights. The Grocery Manufacturers Association presented a brief saying a ruling favouring the steelworkers would be 'devastating to many employers.'

"Conditions in the U.S. and Canada have degenerated to the point where owners of capital and their political representatives consider it "devastating" to recognize and uphold the rights of workers, even outlawing workers' claims on the value they produce through their work-time and criminalizing their collective actions for a say and control over their terms of employment.

"Information Update considers this a very serious matter. Cleary, there is no limit to what companies like U.S. Steel are prepared to do and to what governments and courts in their service are prepared to do. It is utterly depraved. Society cannot afford to have people in positions of economic and political authority who are so self-serving."

(The case is Sandifer v. United States Steel Corporation, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-417.)

(Information Update #4, February 6, 2014)

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2014-2015 Quebec Budget

A Budget in Contradiction with the
Needs of a Modern Society

The 2014-2015 Quebec budget presented February 20 by Minister of Finance and Economy Nicolas Marceau is inconsistent with the needs of a modern Quebec that recognizes and guarantees the rights of all. A modern Quebec requires an economic and budgetary policy that mobilizes the people and the vast resources of the society to meet the growing needs of the people. Such a budget would determine the expenditures necessary to meet the needs of all and reproduce the economy, and would mobilize everyone's energy to produce sufficient revenue for that purpose.

The opposite is happening with this budget. The government proudly says that its spending on social programs is the lowest Quebec has seen in the past 15 years. Spending for social programs increased by 1.2 per cent in 2012-2013 to 2.5 per cent in 2013-2014 and is set at 2 per cent per year until 2016-2017. These figures are historic lows, we are told. They fall short of the needs of the population and mean drastic cuts to already inadequate services. In addition, this year the cost of daycare will begin to increase annually, Hydro-Québec rates will escalate and tuition fees for foreign students will also rise, not to mention unannounced costs that result from spending cuts to social programs.

At the same time the level of fiscal and budgetary resources allocated to pay the rich reached new heights in the name of economic growth, job creation and prosperity. We are witnessing the transfer of ever greater amounts of social wealth into the hands of private monopoly interests which use it for their own purposes. This wealth is squandered in ventures over which the people and the government have no control. This impoverishes the economy and increases the imbalance between the different interests of society.

Quebec has an abundance of natural and human resources and a fighting, educated and productive working class. Once workers organize themselves on the basis of their own independent politics and decide to bring the social wealth they produce under their control, anything is possible. Neo-liberal policy sees no alternative but to pay the rich and considers workers, students, women and the elderly as costs to be constantly reduced. Neo-liberal policies and the budget of the current government and previous governments are at odds with the needs of society. The problem posed for solution is to vest in the people the power to decide the direction of the economy.

(Published in Chantier politique. Translated from original French.)

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Austerity and Prosperity

Premier Pauline Marois, responding to political opponents who accuse her of not meeting the deadline for a balanced budget and not making enough spending cuts, remarked, "They choose austerity. Us -- we choose prosperity."

According to the Larousse Dictionary, prosperity is a "state marked by expansion and abundance;" "the state of someone who is in a favourable position economically or regarding health." Synonyms are: development, growth, expansion, happiness, fortune, wealth. Antonyms are: misfortune, misery, poverty, crisis, depression, stagnation, ruin.

Austerity is an "economic policy to reduce the total income available for consumption through taxes, wage freezes, forced loans, credit restrictions and control of investments." Synonyms are: asceticism, puritanism, rigour, sobriety.

Austerity is therefore not the opposite of or an alternative to prosperity. The opposite of austerity is to increase the total income available for consumption and allow wages and investment to increase to meet the needs of society. Prosperity belongs to another category altogether and "rejecting austerity" neither guarantees prosperity, nor ensures that Quebec comes out of "misfortune, misery, poverty, crisis, depression, stagnation, ruin."

In fact, all the governments of Canada, whether they invoke austerity or not, pass laws and vote on budgets with spending cuts to social programs and public services and attack the wages and working conditions of public sector employees. According to Ms. Marois, the Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Quebec, who propose to maintain spending increases at 1.5 per cent per year or less, are for austerity while the government is against austerity since it wants to increase spending to two per cent. It is absurd.

So what is the Premier talking about?

Rather than reducing the issue of budget expenditures and government revenues to these partisan games, the government should seriously address the major challenge facing Quebec: how to use our abundant resources, our educated population and our industries, established with our sweat and blood and tears and that of those who have gone before us, to meet the needs and aspirations of Quebeckers. With all its wealth and capacity, Quebec can certainly guarantee them the dignified standard of living of an advanced society. It can fully care for the ill, educate its youth at the highest level and offer its seniors security in retirement, with happiness, dignity and peace of mind.

(Published in Chantier politique. Translated from original French.)

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For Your Information

Key Measures in the Quebec Budget

- The Quebec budget confirms a $2.5 billion deficit for 2013-2014, projects a deficit of $1.75 billion for 2014-2015 and a balanced budget for 2015-2016.

- The growth for spending on social programs is set at 2% per year from 2014-2015 to 2016-2017. The budget allocates an increase of 3% for health and education while other ministries will reduce their spending by 0.8%.

- The budget provides for the implementation of "patient-centred" funding ("the money follows the patient") in the health care system. The funding is based on the performance of health care facilities and has led to many closures, particularly in Ontario.

- The cost of child care, which is currently set at $7 per day, will increase to $8 per day on September 1, 2014; $9 on September 1, 2015 and to $9.20 as of September 1, 2016.

- Tuition fees for international students will increase.

- The budget preempts the bargaining of public employees, subjecting their collective agreements, which expire March 31, 2015, to "reasonable compensation" that can be adjusted according to the state of the economy and government revenues.

- The budget pressures school boards to reduce spending by $125 million through various measures including mergers.

- The budget ratifies the decision in the November 2013 economic statement that grants a 10-year tax holiday to all companies that invest $200 million in projects in Quebec, instead of$300 million as was previously the case.

- The policy of reducing electricity rates for businesses from the electricity surplus as decided last October will now apply to companies that have a consumption threshold of 2 MW to 15 MW.

- The government will increase its involvement in mining companies including allowing the Société québécoise d'exploration minière (SOQUEM) to partner with junior mining companies, financing almost all of their exploration activities.

- The budget ratifies the government's decision to apply the public-private partnership formula to two exploration projects on Anticosti Island. The government has announced deals with Petrolia Corridor Resourses, Maurel & Prom and Junex, and is investing $115 million in these two projects.

- The government will develop a program to identify 300 so-called promising Quebec companies (referred to as "gazelles") that will receive subsidies to increase their sales to $200 million or more.

(Published in Chantier politique. Translated from original French.)

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Speaking Tour by Haitian Human Rights Defender Attorney Mario Joseph

Ten Years After Haiti's Coup d'Etat:
The Human Rights Record

On February 29th, 2004, military and diplomatic forces from Canada, the US,and France occupied key positions of Haiti's capital and orchestrated the removal of the country's elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. According to many human rights defenders in Haiti and internationally, the result has been a human rights disaster.

Mario Joseph has played a central role in fighting for the human and democratic rights of the Haitian people – even in the danger and chaos following this notorious coup d'etat ten years ago.  His talks in Canada will offer a fresh and unmediated view of the political and human rights picture in contemporary Haiti. What has been the legacy of the 2004 coup in the realm of human rights? What role has Canada played, and what role should it be playing, in Haiti? These and other topics will be explored.

Mario Joseph is Haiti's "most prominent human rights lawyer" (New York Times). He is the recipient of numerous awards and honours in the field of law and human rights, including the Katharine and George Alexander law prize of Santa Clara Law School (2009). In 2013, he was a final nominee for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. His office in Port au Prince is the Bureau des avocats internationaux (Office of International Lawyers). Together with its partner office in Boston, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the BAI has spearheaded the historic legal action against the United Nations over the world body's negligence in the arrival and spread of cholera in Haiti in 2010. The cholera epidemic has killed more than 8,000 Haitian people.

Friday, February 28 -- 7:00 pm
233 Gilmour St., one block west of Elgin.
Organized by: Akasan, Kozayiti/Ottawa Haiti Solidarity Committee, others.
For information: kevin.skerrett@gmail.com

New Glasgow, NS
Protest at Constituency Office of Minister of Justice Peter McKay
Saturday, March 1 -- 1:00 pm

Organized by: Altantic Regional Solidarity Network
For information: Catherine, 902-351-2001

Click to enlarge.

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