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May 5, 2014 - No. 52

Canadian Labour Congress 27th Convention

Largest Convention Ever
Opens in Montreal


Montreal, May 5, 2014

Canadian Labour Congress 27th Convention
Largest Convention Ever Opens in Montreal - Louis Lang

May Day 2014
Actions Across Canada


Canadian Labour Congress 27th Convention

Largest Convention Ever Opens in Montreal

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 27th Constitutional Convention opened in Montreal this morning, May 5, and runs through to May 9.

All indications are that this Convention will have the largest delegate attendance ever in the CLC's history. Various affiliated unions are mobilizing to use all the credentials entitled to them and are sending significantly larger delegations than in the past.

This should not be surprising since workers across the country have been facing unprecedented attacks on their rights by corporations and governments at all levels. With the Harper government at the head, the most vicious legislation is being rammed through across the country to deny workers' rights to proper wages and livelihood and decent working conditions. Workers' struggles for collective bargaining are being routinely criminalized and the right to organize is also being targeted by some provincial governments and the Harper Conservatives. Through temporary foreign worker legislation, the most vulnerable immigrant workers are made available for vicious exploitation by monopoly corporations with the goal of destroying the rights of all Canadian workers. It is also important to mention the fight being waged against legislation undermining the right to receive unemployment benefits, as well as the daily fight of injured workers to compensation benefits.

These and many other examples of the anti-social offensive of the ruling classes create a very urgent problem that must be the greatest priority for consideration by all organizations of the working class.

But what is most surprising is that the emergency situation facing workers does not seem to be the main consideration of the CLC or some of its affiliated unions in their preparations for the 2014 Convention. The mad scramble to send the maximum number of delegates is being driven by a crisis inside the CLC National Executive. It has become evident that the national President will be challenged on election day by the present Secretary-Treasurer. Other unions have also recently declared their intention to run for one of the two National Executive Vice-President positions.

Of course, elections for these positions take place at each Convention but the difference this year is the open disintegration and factionalism in the national leadership and among some of the largest affiliated unions.

This will make the work of the delegates very difficult. Experience tells us that many workers will be coming to the Convention seeking to deal with all the serious problems they face in their areas. The most important issue facing the vast majority of delegates is how to organize to defend themselves from the vicious anti-social offensive. The clear danger facing Convention delegates is that the important issues of how workers can discuss their problems and consider all possible solutions for fighting back will be diverted by the election hysteria which is already underway.

In order to provide the workers with some positive results from the work of this Convention, delegates must insist on discussing the real situation of Canadian workers as it is. They must fully discuss the meaning of the main theme of the Convention which has also been the basis of the campaign of the CLC for the past two years -- "Together Fairness Works."

Does this campaign of the CLC for "fairness" help advance the fight against the anti-social offensive and does it help the workers put forward their own independent pro-social program or does it deceive the workers into accepting things as they are and limit their demands to some complaints about how they are being treated?

Before any elections take place this is the discussion that must take place so that an independent path for the workers can be worked out.

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May Day 2014

Actions Across Canada

Actions across Canada celebrated May Day 2014 in the spirit of fighting unity and determination to stop the nation-wrecking of the Harper government and governments at all levels and defeat the austerity agendas being imposed on workers across the country.

Montreal


More than 5,000 people took part in the evening demonstration under the banner "Fight Back against Austerity Measures." May Day in Quebec took place three weeks after the April 7 general election in which the forces of the federal establishment manoeuvred to elect a Liberal majority government. These forces now claim that Quebeckers "rejected sovereignty" and "chose the economy" and that "economy" is equal to the austerity agenda. The May Day action rejected this agenda and reflected the determination of the workers to block it.

Leading the march was a contingent of postal workers defending the public postal service against the wrecking activities of the Harper government and Canada Post executives. They were followed by the Radio-Canada workers demanding a moratorium on the cutbacks ordered by the Harper government. Then came contingents of Quebec public sector workers and workers from manufacturing sectors; steelworkers, construction workers, pulp and paper workers and workers from many small manufacturing plants in Montreal. Students were there, as were community organizations that defend the rights of the most vulnerable, organizations demanding status for all and many others. The Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) held high its banner calling for a new direction for Quebec to be achieved by stopping governments from paying the rich and increasing investments in social programs. PMLQ activists distributed its May Day statement, calling on workers to defeat the phony neo-liberal austerity agenda and build the pro-social alternative, which was well-received.

The demonstration was sober and militant, expressing the determination of workers to fight the battles that lie ahead.












Demonstration by Anti-Capitalist Convergence Brutally Suppressed by Police


Montreal police brutally suppressed the May Day demonstration organized in Montreal by the Anti-Capitalist Convergence. It was another example of how the pretext of breach of city bylaws is used to unleash police violence against demonstrators. Only a few minutes after the demonstration began, the police cornered the demonstrators and arrested 132 of them. They were eventually given tickets for municipal bylaw violations and face fines of up to $640, while five were arrested on possible criminal charges of mischief and assault on a police officer. Police violence was such that four of the demonstrators required treatment in hospital.

Quebec City

More than 200 people marched to the Quebec National Assembly to protest the government's austerity agenda. The action was organized by the Coalition for Social Justice. Foremost in peoples' minds was the Quebec Liberal majority government's upcoming budget and how it will implement further cuts to social programs and public services. "There is no room to further cut public services," said an activist with the Coalition. Another participant said: "We know with the talk about austerity they are going to put the burden on the poor and vulnerable, those who can hardly make a living now."

A representative of the Confederation of the National Trade Unions (CSN) pledged that it will do all it can to defeat the austerity agenda. "We are going to fight them this summer, this fall and for many years to come. There is no way we are going to accept this discourse," she said.

Halifax


A militant May Day picket was held at the Commons in Halifax, organized by the Omnibus Nova Scotia May Day committee. Speakers included representatives of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, No Harbour for War, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist Leninist) as well as individuals. They spoke about the need to defeat Harper, and the long and proud tradition of May Day as an international day of working class solidarity and struggle.

Ottawa


More than 600 people marched through downtown Ottawa to oppose cuts in public services and stand against austerity measures being imposed by governments at all levels. Workers from many sectors, such as transportation, federal and provincial public services, education and the post office, along with First Nations' organizations, student organizations and many community groups marched behind a banner demanding "Stop the Cuts -- Solidarity Against Austerity."

As the demonstration wound its way through downtown Ottawa, a contingent of about 100 public servants, teachers and students from Gatineau, who had marched across the bridge from Quebec, joined the march which headed past Parliament Hill to the Prime Minister's Office.

In front of the PMO on Wellington Street speakers representing students, public service workers, postal workers and First Nations denounced the Harper Conservatives for their attacks on workers and all working people across the country. Speakers highlighted the ongoing attack on postal workers and the elimination of door-to-door delivery for the vast major of Canadians in favour of the privatization of a valuable public service for the benefit of private postal monopolies. Other important issues were also addressed including free tuition for post-secondary education, the need for a significant increase in the minimum wage and the environmental threats from the Energy East oil pipeline.

A group from the Algonquin First Nation drummed and sang traditional songs to welcome the march taking place on their territory.





Toronto

May Day in Toronto started with a noon hour picket outside the Royal York Hotel where the CEO of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra, was speaking to the Canadian Club on the "postal transformation" through which they are wrecking the public post office. The picket was organized by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) to defend the public post office. It was attended by active and retired postal workers, and their allies, including activists of CPC(M-L).

Members of CUPW Scarborough and Toronto locals distributed a leaflet informing the public about the importance of the fight that the postal workers are waging against the anti-social cuts to the postal services across Canada and against the attack on wages, working and living conditions of the postal workers being carried out by the Harper government. In their leaflet they pointed out that far from solving any of the postal service problems Canadians face, turning over the public post office to private interests will result in the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs, elimination of services to many remote regions of Canada and further cost increases.


Later in the afternoon, more than 1,000 people participated in the Toronto May Day rally and march. The majority were young people. Everyone came with their banners and their demands. Workers, students, activists fighting for rights of immigrants and refugees and those without immigration status, anti-poverty activists, environmentalists and representatives from First Nations joined in to affirm the rights of all. Placards and flyers demanded a raise in the minimum wage to $14 and called for Status for All. Banners supported the sovereign right of the Venezuelan people to determine their own affairs and demanded the release of the Cuban Five anti-terrorists. A contingent from CPC(M-L) participated holding high the banner "Stop Paying the Rich, Increase Funding for Social Programs" and distributing copies of the current issue of Workers' Forum.

The rallying point of Allan Gardens was chosen because of its long history as a gathering place in many of the fights people have waged -- against war; nuclear arms; state-organized racist and fascist violence; the anti-social offensive -- including 25 years as the centre for the anti-poverty rallies and organizing of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).

The short rally began with a traditional First Nations opening and a speaker from Six Nations who reiterated that the sovereignty of First Nations must be respected. A spokesperson from OCAP explained that the area around Allan Gardens is one of the poorest urban centres in Canada and that the current Wynne government, despite their talk of caring for the poor, has refused to raise either the minimum wage or social assistance rates. This government chose today -- our day -- to introduce its budget into the Legislature -- a budget that does not include the poor and working people of this province the speaker pointed out. This government is no different than the governments before it -- nor do the other parties in the Legislature represent any solution for the problems facing the poor, she said. The rally concluded with a phone call of greetings to the rally from a detainee at the immigration detention centre in Lindsay.

The rally was followed by a march to the Ontario Legislature. An Aboriginal contingent led off the march, followed by a giant two-row wampum representing the need for new nation-to-nation relations with the aboriginal peoples. A banner declared "No One Is Illegal." The march made several stops along the way, for a round dance in the intersection of Yonge and College, and in front of the Toronto Police Headquarters.





Hamilton


More than 250 workers participated in the May First events in Hamilton which began with a rally at the Max Aicher North America (MANA) gates. Gary Howe, Vice-President of Local 1005 USW opened the rally and introduced Bill Mahoney who recited his poem "Our Town." Tim Blackborrow, the Local 1005 Unit Chair for MANA thanked everyone on behalf of the workers in this unit for recognizing their 10-month lockout by starting the rally at the MANA gates. Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina brought greetings on behalf of the city. Councillor Scott Duvall, Chair of the Hamilton City Council Steel Committee, spoke to the committee's concerns. Bill Ferguson, President of Local 8782 USW brought greetings on behalf of the Lake Erie workers who one year ago were fighting a phony lock out by U.S. Steel.


Left: Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina (right) and City Councillor Scott Duvall at the May Day action at MANA;
right: Local 1005 USW President Rolf Gerstenberger at the Wilcox Gates of U.S. Steel.

The final speaker was Rolf Gerstenberger, President of Local 1005 USW who said that on the occasion of  May First "we call on everyone to demand that governments must uphold public right, not monopoly 'right'"; governments must provide the rights of workers, seniors and youth with proper guarantees." He pointed out further that, "Experience shows that unless workers directly fight for a program that favours them, things become worse."

The workers marched to the U.S. Steel gates on Wilcox and then through the east end of the city to Local 1005's Union Hall for a barbeque.



Kitchener

Workers and youth in Kitchener celebrated May Day by distributing copies of Workers' Forum in the downtown core. They met afterwards to discuss the significance of May 1, the tabling of the Ontario budget and the possible upcoming provincial election. Two youth that ran in the last provincial election announced that they would again run in this election and others enthusiastically agreed to work to support them. They also decided to use the distribution of Workers' Forum on Saturdays to renew the work to get subscriptions to Ontario Political Forum.

London


Windsor


Close to 200 people from a broad cross-section of the community participated in a spirited May Day in Windsor. Opening the march, a member of the organizing committee explained that the theme of "Rights" was chosen for this year's march to make clear that workers' rights, far from being the problem holding back the economy, are the condition for its advance and for a bright future for everyone.

The march was headed by a large contingent of postal workers carrying the banner "Hands Off Our Public Post Office" which set a militant tone for the entire march. It affirmed that public services and the workers who provide them are assets not costs. Teachers and education workers, health care workers, autoworkers, city workers, high school, university and college students, retirees as well as many community activists and their families took part in the march and the Labour Village that followed.

Throughout the march the streets echoed with slogans: "Whose Streets? Our Streets!"; "Who Makes Windsor Work? We Make Windsor Work?"; "Whose Post Office? Our Post Office!"; "Whose Economy? Our Economy!"; "Hands Off Our Public Post Office!" and "Solidarity Against Austerity!"

The march paused at one of the last remaining retail outlets of Canada Post located in Windsor's downtown. Here Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 630 President Jeff Carroll spoke denouncing the fraud that the Harper government is perpetuating by presenting the post office as a liability, when in fact it is a public asset. He thanked everyone for standing with the postal workers, reiterating that this is everyone's fight.

The march ended in the parking lot of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) District 9 office which was transformed into a Labour Village. Unions and community groups set up tables and displays and cultural performances reflecting working class culture from the past and present were presented on stage.

Performances included tributes to notable figures in the working class fights for rights, a re-enactment of the Haymarket massacre and trial by the local branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, songs dedicated to the fight of teachers and education workers performed by OSSTF members, spoken word tributes to May Day by the youth, as well as a high-spirited rendition of the song "We Only Want the Earth" by Irish patriot James Connolly by performers from the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist).

The entire day was marked by a spirit of unity of the working people reflecting the best the working class of Windsor has given rise to.







Saskatoon


Edmonton


Workers and their allies celebrated May Day in Edmonton with a militant rally, march and social. Workers rallied at the Legislature with their flags, banners, signs and placards expressing their spirit and determination to "Defend the Rights of Workers! Defend the Rights of All!" From the Legislature there was a lively march along Jasper Avenue to Grant Notley Park. The evening ended with food and a social at Oliver Community Hall, that included an inspiring musical performance by Soujah Fyah and much discussion as to the fight that lies ahead.






Calgary


Active and retired workers from several sectors, students, and members of the community held a spirited May Day picket beside Central Memorial Park during the height of evening rush hour. Following the picket everyone participated in a potluck dinner and get-together where workers and their allies shared information about the struggles they are waging and what work needs to be taken up in the coming year. The picket and get-together provided an opportunity for participants to stand with all the forces fighting to bring about a world which is just and not based on exploitation of persons by persons.




Prince George

The annual May Day banquet and celebration in Prince George was a rousing success with more than 130 workers and community members participating, and 17 union and other organizations sponsoring tables. This was the highest level of participation since the event was initiated five years ago.

Workers from a broad range of sectors joined in the celebration. These included workers in the forestry, construction, and food and beverage industries, along with many public sector employees, including teachers, professors, firefighters, administrative staff, social workers and postal workers. Lawyers from two local law firms also participated, as did musicians, writers, and retirees.

At the beginning of the evening, participants stood in a moment of silence for the workers and employees killed at the Western Forest Products mill in Nanaimo the previous day.

The banquet and celebration, which took place at a local hotel and included a full course roast beef dinner, featured speakers from the May Day Organizing Committee, as well as representatives from the 17 sponsoring organizations. The agenda was punctuated with labour songs and traditional music, provided by local fiddlers and musicians, as well as by members of the audience, creating an atmosphere of high spirits and solidarity. Participants loudly applauded when it was announced that faculty at UNBC, northern BC's university, had just voted 92 per cent to form a union.

One of the themes that emerged during the course of the speeches and presentations was the necessity of workers not only stepping up their resistance to the anti-worker, anti-social onslaught of big business and the governments in its service, but also getting into action politically, specifically the upcoming municipal and federal elections.

Vancouver


Some 250 workers, youth and seniors marched with their trade union and political banners and placards from Clark Park down Commercial Drive to Grandview Park for a short rally. Speakers at the rally included representatives of the Vancouver and District Labour Council and BC Federation of Labour who organized the event. Lillian Rose Howard, a retired worker and long time activist from the Nuu-chah-nulth spoke on the struggle for the rights of First Nations, and also those of women workers. She affirmed that the Enbridge and Kinder-Morgan pipelines can be stopped. Mike Weaks, a locked-out Ikea worker, spoke about the fight Ikea workers have waged since May 2013 against demands for concessions made by the multi-billion dollar retail monopoly.

Following the rally, about 30 workers gathered at the Trout Lake Community Centre for a May Day discussion. Charles Boylan opened the meeting with a review of some of the main resistance struggles in BC, highlighting that of owner-operator truckers in their successful strike against the Port Metro Vancouver and provincial government. Workers from rail and construction spoke on the question of holding the monopolies responsible for the health and safety of workers. Workers from health care and education sectors spoke about the resistance they are waging against the anti-social offensive. Two guests from the Venezuelan Consulate spoke and provided everyone with materials to bring the truth about what is happening in Venezuela where the mass of workers took to the streets to affirm their revolution and revolutionary government.


(V. Penney,  R. Devet, SCFP 4628, A. Querry, G. Gray, D. Blackport, UNA,)

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