Salt Workers Will Consider the Tentative

Agreement Seriously

– Empower Yourself Now –

May Day rally at Windsor Salt picket line

As workers at Windsor Salt prepare to assess the tentative agreement their bargaining committees and the company have reached, there are several things they will seriously consider before they vote. During their now longer than five-month strike, they have faced up to a global cartel which has shown its intent to undermine their union so that they can arbitrarily push the work force around in a manner they consider to be the most profitable. The company used its monopoly on salt extraction and processing in North America to continue filling orders while the Windsor workers were kept idle and put under pressure to give up their struggle.

For more than five months the workers stood their ground and upheld the dignity of labour -- their own and that of all Canadian and Quebec workers who face nation-wrecking in the name of good jobs and a strong economy. Private security agents were used 24/7 to harass and intimidate the workers in an attempt to provoke incidents which the company then pathetically tried to blame on the workers to divide their ranks and to divide the workers from the community. Private investigators were hired by nobody knows who to intimidate workers at their homes, dangling a company $50,000 reward for information about an alleged incident that the company insinuated the union was responsible for. Despite all difficulties, the workers held the line and upheld their principles and rights.

The workers are clear that the company is not going to abandon its dirty tricks now that there is a tentative agreement, whether it passes or not. Their own experience and what they have learned from other workers who have dealt with Stone Canyon Industries Holdings Inc. make this very clear. The issue facing them now is to define for themselves where their security lies and how to strengthen their unity and organization as they discuss the tentative agreement and decide whether to accept or reject it.

The propaganda is that in a strike or mediation both sides walk away unsatisfied and that this is a natural outcome of a process in which two sides have to compromise, be flexible and be ready to "give and take." This is said to be the way the labour relations regime balances competing interests and maintains labour peace. However, labour relations today are no longer premised on "good faith bargaining" that was once seen to provide a measure of fairness.

Today, supranational narrow private interests are after exorbitant windfall profits by using their control of decision-making powers in various countries at the state, provincial and municipal levels. They do not negotiate, they dictate and hold all kinds of power over the workers to deprive them of what belongs to them by right, such as their claims on the added value they produce through their labour. The workers are also very concerned about the production facilities and their role and necessity for nation-building. The need to humanize the natural and social environment is also a matter of concern. Company "negotiating" tactics based on threats and dirty deeds to provoke strikes or lockouts, whose aim is to manipulate outcomes and divide the workers and their communities can and must be fought. The workers' security does not lie in a contract as such but in their fight for their rights and the rights of all.

Whatever the workers decide is based on what can be accomplished at any time but it is not the end of any battle, it is a new beginning, a new starting point in the workers' fight for their rights and the rights of all. Under these most difficult circumstances and in a situation where governments act as an integral part of the cartels rather than on behalf of the people, it is most important for the workers to calmly assess where they stand and take the decision which favours their interests. They are not there to take sides pro or con an agreement because it is the best they can get and the result of mediation, but to assess whether it resolves the current conflict in a manner which favours them.

The salt workers have done themselves and all of us proud by refusing to submit to the company's union-busting dictate and dirty tactics. The labour relations regime permitted the company to obtain injunctions against strike action and continue operating while the workers were denigrated and criminalized for defending their interests. In the strike 12 workers faced criminal charges that the workers demand be dropped. Meanwhile the company faces no repercussions for all of its dirty tricks. It got to walk away from negotiations at a whim, keeping the workers without income, and this is considered normal, okay. But the workers said no, it is not okay and they held the line. They rejected intimidation and extortion.

At every turn of events, the workers strengthened their resolve to hold the line because they know their cause is just, it is necessary. Their future and that of their families and communities and country depends on being an organized union and political force and only the workers, through their deeds, can make it so. Their resistance to the company's dictate and impunity meant that day by day the actions of the company could not be kept hidden. Their resistance inspired others to join in, such as teachers, education workers and fellow workers from many sectors of the economy. The unity and support expressed by fellow salt workers from far and wide was also priceless. All of this also punctured the official disinformation and government silence about the need to defend actual workers' jobs. The government hands out billions in public funds for mining critical minerals in the name of growing the economy and creating good jobs when the existing good jobs in mining critical minerals like salt are ruthlessly eliminated.

The fact that it is up to the working people to make sure Canadian resources are used to benefit workers, their families, communities and country, in harmony with the claims of Indigenous Nations on their lands and of nature, became evident during this strike. Working people cannot afford to give up the defence of their rights in the face of attempts to disorganize and disempower them. This is all the more significant given that autoworkers in Unifor will enter into negotiations with the Big Three automakers as well as governments over how electrification of the auto industry will take place and who will benefit. Much has been learned and many have been inspired and emboldened by the salt workers' resistance.

In the course of their strike, the salt workers openly argued out what their experience was teaching them. They were guided by the conclusions they drew and they are sure to do the same when it comes to evaluating the tentative agreement and how to vote.

This article was published in
Number 39 - July 24, 2023

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