Electro-Motive Shutdown, and related issues

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Electro-Motive Shutdown, and related issues

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Unionist

It would be nice if we could talk a little more about the questions directly surrounding the EMD closure and how the workers and their allies are responding to that - rather than whether Karl Marx saw this coming and what Karl would have said. And it would also be nice if we could hold back on attacking the union for "putting on a show" at a time when it is itself under severe attack and needs our support.

 

Todrick of Chat...

 

In situations like this, does the company leaving Canada take most of the machinery and other infrastructure and ship it to the new country?

 

If not, it would this could be excellent chance to start a new company from scratch controlled by the workers and some limited investors.

Fidel

Unionist wrote:

It would be nice if we could talk a little more about the questions directly surrounding the EMD closure and how the workers and their allies are responding to that - rather than whether Karl Marx saw this coming and what Karl would have said. And it would also be nice if we could hold back on attacking the union for "putting on a show" at a time when it is itself under severe attack and needs our support.

 

Marx would have said to organize into worker's unions and collectives and protest and even seize the factories.

One problem, the E-M-Caterpillar factory and the owners of the means are now or will be physically located in the newly created RTW state of Indiana. 

The workers need someone in the union to orient themselves and go protest on goddamn Parliament Hill and Queen's Park.

That's where the fucking picket line is now. They should setup a picket line post their efforts on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter etecetera, and raise hell about it.

Unionist

Fidel wrote:

The workers need someone in the union to orient themselves and go protest on goddamn Parliament Hill and Queen's Park.

That's where the fucking picket line is now. They should setup a picket line post their efforts on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter etecetera, and raise hell about it.

What would the workers do without your sage advice? Where should thank-you notes be addressed?

Maybe they're worried about their life plans right now. Maybe they're trying to figure out how to get decent severance. Maybe their first priority isn't to put on a political show. Who knows?

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..how can the workers get to a point where they envision a solution begining at the local level? maybe they already do but there is no outlet. how can the broader left produce a vision that a radicalization needs to take place and then bring it to the table as a coalition partner in a shared struggle? we need to get here or someplace like this. an issue like this has the potential to grow and grow some more. a bold action by the workers could be the spark that inspired community support. this is the best i got unionist.

Unionist

epaulo13 wrote:
..how can the workers get to a point where they envision a solution begining at the local level? maybe they already do but there is no outlet. how can the broader left produce a vision that a radicalization needs to take place and then bring it to the table as a coalition partner in a shared struggle? we need to get here or someplace like this. an issue like this has the potential to grow and grow some more. a bold action by the workers could be the spark that inspired community support. this is the best i got unionist.

I agree with all those questions, epaulo. It's the best I've got, too. But the workers still need to take the lead. Doesn't mean allies can't talk to them (and their union) and ask about ways to help. And it doesn't mean other struggles have to take a back seat while waiting for them to lead. They may not be ready to broaden the parameters, but there are no shortage of other battles which will go on anyway.

By the way, I'll be surprised if we don't at least see something like an occupation here - but that's a guess, not advice. It's not my place.

ETA: Fidel, his attacks on me, his attacks on workers, his provocation, his nonstop propaganda for the NDP even where the NDP has no involvement in the situation - are now on "ignore". He can carry on to his heart's content.

Fidel

Unionist wrote:
Maybe they're worried about their life plans right now. Maybe they're trying to figure out how to get decent severance. Maybe their first priority isn't to put on a political show. Who knows?

 

If they are going to capitulate like this, then there isn't a real problem, is there? They don't need the NDP or anyone else fighting against Ottawa's rubberstamp approval of thousands more foreign takeovers and absentee corporate ownership of Canadian companies and good paying union jobs associated with them, or at least they were at one time. The more the merrier. This could be a monthly ritual as corporate America pulls back hundreds of jobs to newly created right-to-work states on a regular basis.

And 450 former E-M-Caterpillar workers can start flipping burgers, pumping gas, and greeting WalMart customers even sooner. It's easy-peasy when Canadian workers lay down for the stoogeaucracy and corporate America like this.

We don't need to make anything in Canada anymore. We can import what other countries manufacture and live on credit until such time as the workers are prepared to make like Greeks and protest. We'll end up like the former Yugoslavia without jobs and banksters imposing even more neoliberal austerity.

josh

I don't know why it's an either/or proposition.  Both the political tract and the street tract.  But I would agree that at this point, with elected governments in North America dominated by reactionary governents, and non-reactionary parties more concerned with "positioning" than with confrontation, it's up to workers, unions and their supporters to take the lead through direct action, such as occupation. 

Fidel

The NDP protested against the scrapping of FIRA, NAFTA, and the resultant hollowing out of Canada since Mulroney and Chretien and now the Harpers. 

Not attacking you so much as what youre saying. There is a difference. I have said nothing of what I think of you personally. Nice try though.

And I don't think much of workers being satisfied with pursuing "severance pay" and capitulating to McWage slavery when the focus is off Ottawa and the Harpers - mere human rubberstamps of approval for even more US takeovers of Canadian economy.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Unionist wrote:

epaulo13 wrote:
..how can the workers get to a point where they envision a solution begining at the local level? maybe they already do but there is no outlet. how can the broader left produce a vision that a radicalization needs to take place and then bring it to the table as a coalition partner in a shared struggle? we need to get here or someplace like this. an issue like this has the potential to grow and grow some more. a bold action by the workers could be the spark that inspired community support. this is the best i got unionist.

I agree with all those questions, epaulo. It's the best I've got, too. But the workers still need to take the lead. Doesn't mean allies can't talk to them (and their union) and ask about ways to help. And it doesn't mean other struggles have to take a back seat while waiting for them to lead. They may not be ready to broaden the parameters, but there are no shortage of other battles which will go on anyway.

By the way, I'll be surprised if we don't at least see something like an occupation here - but that's a guess, not advice. It's not my place.

ETA: Fidel, his attacks on me, his attacks on workers, his provocation, his nonstop propaganda for the NDP even where the NDP has no involvement in the situation - are now on "ignore". He can carry on to his heart's content.

..i'm a big fan of workers taking the lead. 2011 brought interesting in your face struggles like wisconsin that tend to inspire creative thought. the company on the other hand will be looking to trade off a bit more money for a quiet escape.

Unionist

josh wrote:

I don't know why it's an either/or proposition.  Both the political tract and the street tract.  But I would agree that at this point, with elected governments in North America dominated by reactionary governents, and non-reactionary parties more concerned with "positioning" than with confrontation, it's up to workers, unions and their supporters to take the lead through direct action, such as occupation. 

Gotta agree with all that. It's not either/or. It's "who".

 

Gaian

Here's what the company is up to, as explained by Martin Regg Cohn from Queen's Park:
"Cleaver multinationals - and this is one cunning Caterpillar - don't spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy a factory only to shutter it.
"S what was the plan?"?

Never mind Caterpillar's chold-hearted gtactics. Its clear-eyed strategy exposes our own blindness.

The bid bad Americans saw past our myopia - beyond the cash value of the plant's physical property to size up and seize the company's intellectual property: the innovation, trade secrets, manufacturhing processes and research and development residing in London.

"It won't just relocate the heavy equipment on the factory floor, but harvest the technological know-how subsidized with government incentives and writeoffs. This wasn't bullying, it was highway robbery - with out politicians watching from the sidelines.

"Cater;pillar kicked those workers in the teeth, but we should be kicking ourselves for letting it acquire the legal right to do as it please when purchasing the old locomotive plant...A locomotive factory is gone. Now the tech gtrain is leaving the station - with a free pass from our policicians."

This guy is a pocket conservative, so he just uses "politicians" in the usual, rabble-rousing, populist fashion. Anyone listening in on Parliament knows this.

And since the train has left the station, occupation would be just another "show." But perhaps the Liberals and Conservative voters among the workers will be looking for more answers. If this doesn't waken then regarding the meaning of defending national industries and technology, nothing will. They would not have been alerted to this earlier because of the necessarily politically conscious demands facing the leadership. It's not like the old days, when one decided between communist leaders and social democrats. :)

Unionist

Gaian, yet again, with his scorn for workers and their union, has made my "ignore" list. I'm sure it won't hurt much, but hopefully it will make for a more respectful conversation when dealing with the EMD closure.

 

welder welder's picture

Unionist wrote:

Fidel wrote:

The workers need someone in the union to orient themselves and go protest on goddamn Parliament Hill and Queen's Park.

That's where the fucking picket line is now. They should setup a picket line post their efforts on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter etecetera, and raise hell about it.

What would the workers do without your sage advice? Where should thank-you notes be addressed?

Maybe they're worried about their life plans right now. Maybe they're trying to figure out how to get decent severance. Maybe their first priority isn't to put on a political show. Who knows?

 

That's pretty much it...

 

Protest???

 

BFD...The horse has left the barn and the door has been closed.The real question is about the future,and tacticly,how does organized labour truly fight the NAM/Koch Bros. faux "freedom" onslaught and how do we stop RTW from infecting our workplaces in this country???...

 

 

And even better....

 

 

How does organized labour go after a massive union organizing effort in RTW states and stop this crap dead in its tracks?

 

 

And beyond that,this has now basically become open class warfare from above.I realize conservative types never want to talk about this stuff,mainly because it shines a light on one of the things they hold sacrosanct,but the fact remains it is happening with frightening regularity.And it's no longer about union or non union....It's about a wealth redistribution excercise that's being undertaken to satisfy an economic theory that says open ans free markets will raise the standard of living for all...

 

This is clearly Friedmanite/Von Hayakian hogwash,but those that are funding politicians of many stripes are geting their economic/legislative way with little or no thoughts on the future consequences of thier current actions.To me,all  global free trade is is a redux on 17th and 18th century European Mercantilism,but done on a global scale.History tells us that this horrendous economic plan had disastrous effects AND brought about equally horrendous economic counterbalances (namely Marxism)...

Fidel

welder wrote:
How does organized labour go after a massive union organizing effort in RTW states and stop this crap dead in its tracks?

Ottawa. The new picket line is Ottawa and Parliament Hill. They have allowed thousands of foreign takeovers of Canadian corporations over the years and no oversight whatsoever in about 98% of these predatory takeovers, like Electro-Motive in 2010. The Harpers, like a string of Liberal governments before and Mulroney before them, have been one long-running yes aye-aye may we have some more approval agency for these takeovers.

The Harpers and Liberal Party could all be replaced with one big-giant rubberstamp of approval that says Made in USA. Come and takeover more Canadian companies and then close them down whenever there are hard times in the imperial-master nation ie. corporate America. The Liberals-Tories same old stories will continue betraying Canadian workers in future, too. It's a pattern established over several decades.

And now the cold reality of those takeovers is setting in for Canadian workers realizing now that control of their working lives resides in corporate board rooms somewhere in America where record job losses have occurred in recent years. And now they will sacrifice Canadian jobs to bring them home to right-to-work states where trade unions are anywhere from highly discouraged to completely frustrated.

Canada's two oldest political parties, the Tories and Liberals, have betrayed Canadian workers time and time again. It's time for workers in Canada to get behind the NDP. Jobless Caterpillar workers should be camped-out on Parliament Hill and demanding that their do-nothing governments stop selling them and their families down the Mississippi River.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Fidel wrote:

It's time for workers in Canada to get behind the NDP.

Vice-versa, more like.

Fidel

M. Spector wrote:

Fidel wrote:

It's time for workers in Canada to get behind the NDP.

Vice-versa, more like.

 

And there will be an excellent opportunity for you and everyone to show some solidarity for Canadian workers by voting NDP next election. 

[url=http://www.dcf.ca/en/scholarships/david_lewis.htm]Origins of the Foreign Investment Review Agency and the NDP[/url] ... and scrapped by Brian 'On the Take' Mulroney in the 1980s

[url=New">http://www.ndp.ca/press/new-democrat-motion-will-fix-foreign-investment-... Democrat motion will fix foreign investment act[/url] 2010

Open up secretive reviews to ensure foreign takeovers benefit Canadians

Quote:
OTTAWA - On the heels of the government's tentative rejection of the Potash Corp takeover, New Democrats have introduced a motion in the House of Commons to ensure these secretive takeover reviews are opened up to the public...

2010? Hey, that was the exact same year Electro-Motive was snapped-up by Caterpillar based in the imperial master nation, that country next to us where good paying unionized Electro-Motive jobs have disappeared to.

Was it David Copperfield who made these Canadian jobs disappear? NNNNO! It was our long-time stoogeaucracy in Ottawa who sold us down the Mississippi many years ago. And the chickens are coming home to roost as a result.

Fidel

And what a beautiful sight.

[url=[/url]">http://blog.alexanderhiggins.com/2011/06/16/photos-protestors-battling-r...

If this Greek person can do it, so can Electro-Motive workers. Follow his lead. This is democracy in action.

Gaian

Thanks again for the factual backgrounders on NDP attempts at putting legislation through, Fidel.

We can only hope that the selective memory of some - bordering on dementia - improves.

welder welder's picture

Fidel wrote:

welder wrote:
How does organized labour go after a massive union organizing effort in RTW states and stop this crap dead in its tracks?

Ottawa. The new picket line is Ottawa and Parliament Hill. They have allowed thousands of foreign takeovers of Canadian corporations over the years and no oversight whatsoever in about 98% of these predatory takeovers, like Electro-Motive in 2010. The Harpers, like a string of Liberal governments before and Mulroney before them, have been one long-running yes aye-aye may we have some more approval agency for these takeovers.

The Harpers and Liberal Party could all be replaced with one big-giant rubberstamp of approval that says Made in USA. Come and takeover more Canadian companies and then close them down whenever there are hard times in the imperial-master nation ie. corporate America. The Liberals-Tories same old stories will continue betraying Canadian workers in future, too. It's a pattern established over several decades.

And now the cold reality of those takeovers is setting in for Canadian workers realizing now that control of their working lives resides in corporate board rooms somewhere in America where record job losses have occurred in recent years. And now they will sacrifice Canadian jobs to bring them home to right-to-work states where trade unions are anywhere from highly discouraged to completely frustrated.

Canada's two oldest political parties, the Tories and Liberals, have betrayed Canadian workers time and time again. It's time for workers in Canada to get behind the NDP. Jobless Caterpillar workers should be camped-out on Parliament Hill and demanding that their do-nothing governments stop selling them and their families down the Mississippi River.

 

Well,that's one method...

 

But I'm far more interested in the issue of Right to Work,and stopping it in Canada (see the "Merit Shop" movement and groups like CLAC) and going after it head on in the US...

 

I mean,the Dem's backed away from Card Check because they were afraid of Corporate USA,and now we have Republican Presidential hopefuls openly talking about a National Right to Work bill.

 

The immediate issue for organized labour on this continent is to attack RTW in it's heartland and stop this attack on the middle class ASAP...

 

Organized labour has to make the case that RTW is bad for everyone (both union and non union workers).The question is how and how to organize in that very difficult environment where the law is stacked against you?

KenS

Todrick of Chatsworth wrote:

In situations like this, does the company leaving Canada take most of the machinery and other infrastructure and ship it to the new country?

If not, it would this could be excellent chance to start a new company from scratch controlled by the workers and some limited investors.

If this is not implicit already:

The company is legaly free to move the machinery. They likely will not want to move much of it. And the Muncie plant may be ready to go, just need to hire and train more workers.

Even if they were kept from getting the equipment [if they did want it], it would not phase them.

And even if there was a way for a worker owned plant to get away with violating patents and sell the locomotives [we're not talking pirated jeans or CDs here]... they would never be cost competitive.

Gaian

quote: "In situations like this, does the company leaving Canada take most of the machinery and other infrastructure and ship it to the new country?"

Gaian wrote:

Here's what the company is up to, as explained by Martin Regg Cohn from Queen's Park:
"Cleaver multinationals - and this is one cunning Caterpillar - don't spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy a factory only to shutter it.
"So what was the plan?"?

Never mind Caterpillar's cold-hearted tactics. Its clear-eyed strategy exposes our own blindness.

The big bad Americans saw past our myopia - beyond the cash value of the plant's physical property to size up and seize the company's INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: the innovation, trade secrets, manufacturhing processes and research and development residing in London.

"It won't just relocate the heavy equipment on the factory floor, but harvest the technological know-how subsidized with government incentives and writeoffs. This wasn't bullying, it was highway robbery - with out politicians watching from the sidelines.

"Cater;pillar kicked those workers in the teeth, but we should be kicking ourselves for letting it acquire the legal right to do as it please when purchasing the old locomotive plant...A locomotive factory is gone. Now the tech gtrain is leaving the station - with a free pass from our policicians."

This guy is a pocket conservative, so he just uses "politicians" in the usual, rabble-rousing, populist fashion. Anyone listening in on Parliament knows this.

And since the train has left the station, occupation would be just another "show." But perhaps the Liberals and Conservative voters among the workers will be looking for more answers. If this doesn't waken them regarding the meaning of defending national industries and technology, nothing will. They would not have been alerted to this earlier because of the necessarily politically conscious demands facing the leadership. It's not like the old days, when one decided between communist leaders and social democrats. :)

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://xraymagazine.ca/39/4/]Caterpillar Won Because Nobody Fought Hard Enough[/url]
by Shawn Whitney

Quote:
It doesn't have to be this way. We built this country, this economy and this world. We don't have to mourn the loss of more jobs, this time sent to a union-busting "right to work" state, Indiana, for half the wages.

It isn't inevitable that our wages, pensions, benefits---or social programs for that matter---are cut. Caterpillar didn't have to happen. It was a choice.

First and foremost it was a choice by Caterpillar. Let's be plain and honest here: Caterpillar bought the Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) plant for one purpose only: to asset strip it. In this case, the most valuable assets were the intellectual property (IP) owned by EMD. IP is big news and big business these days....

There can be no doubt that Caterpillar are terrible. But they have been aided and abetted by government at every turn and every level. This too was a choice. They could have fought for these jobs, demanded that Caterpillar not shut the plant down or seized their assets. They didn't and they won't....

Knowing that there will be no help from any of the political parties will be important for workers in the present climate of public and private sector austerity that has seen big battles in recent times....

In this battle workers only have unions to defend them. But the trouble is, the unions aren't doing very much at all. Certainly, some union locals are waging brave battles---the workers at Stelco braved picket lines for months.

But lost have been the traditions that built the industrial unions in the first place---militant tactics, including sit-ins and picket lines that did more than hand out information to those that crossed them.

The sort of passivity and reliance on polite bargaining in hotel rooms that has typified the union movement on this continent for so long worked (sometimes) in the 1950s and 1960s when the post-war boom kept the economy expanding and able to provide wage raises and benefits to workers....

What this reveals more than anything is that workers have a twofold battle. Not only must they fight the employer, more often than not they must also fight their union leadership who are interested in negotiating "in good faith" not in kicking greedy boss ass.

But the lesson that ought to be clear by now is that the bosses will keep on taking and taking and taking until they've squeezed every drop of blood from working people.

The only thing that they are interested in is profits and until workers start to hit them in their profits---and hard---they will ignore all the niceties: the conciliation reports, the negotiating meetings, the grievances, even the rallies by thousands of supporters that are held miles from the site of the conflict.

In Egypt they didn't negotiate the end of the dictatorship---they fought for it. And workers in Egypt's privatized industries haven't won the re-nationalization of their companies by mediated settlement---they went on strike and then won in court...and have had to strike to get the court decisions implemented.

In China auto workers won big raises in recent years, not by waiting for employers to grant it to them but by staging a series of wildcat strikes in conditions where independent unions are illegal along with strikes.

The lesson we ought to draw from Caterpillar and EMD is this: unless we fight like our lives depended upon it, they will take our lives away from us. That doesn't mean our side will win all the time but at least we'll know that if we lost we gave them everything we had.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Quote:
"The lesson we ought to draw from Caterpillar and EMD is this: unless we fight like our lives depended upon it, they will take our lives away from us. That doesn't mean our side will win all the time but at least we'll know that if we lost we gave them everything we had."

One little way to fight the transnational corporations we can do very easily and our lives don't depend on it.

We should try not to feed the data miners.   I did not comment on xray.ca's site because it requires everyone to submit their comments via data miners like Facebook, Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft (hotmail).   It's impossible to comment on the site any other way.

Babble uses a much better model.   We can debate issues and individuals can be completely anonymous if they choose and multinational corporate data miners are not fed more of our personal data.

We also should not lend credence to the corporate propaganda term "intellectual property"...the idea that copyright, patent and trademarks should be lumped together into a single ball of wax and then give corporations the same "rights" of ownership as for physical property.

Having gotten that out of the way, more to specifics on the Caterpillar situation and the state of the labour movement.

As "outsiders" to the particular struggle, the best thing we can do is to lend support to the actions that the CAW membership decides to take.   Some of us might feel that the CAW should have done certain things or should do certain things.   In the end it's the CAW that decides what to do and how to carry the struggle forward.

What I can draw on are some of the things that have been happening in Toronto, not because Toronto has done better than anyone else, but simply because it's what I know best.

It was the Toronto & York Region Labour Council (TYLC) that spearheaded the campaign to increase the minimum wage in Ontario a few years ago.   That effort meant doing massive outreach to some of the poorest neighbourhoods of the city. They held about half a dozen very well attended "town hall" meetings to build the campaign.   In the end, the campaign was a success and the province increased Ontario's minimum wage at a much faster rate than they otherwise would have.

The campaign also helped lay the groundwork for various other labour/community campaigns that followed.

The "Made in Canada Matters" campaign helped provide work for hundreds of manufacturing workers at the Bombardier rail plant in Thunder Bay by pressuring Toronto city council into buying Canadian made transit vehicles.

The labour movement was also heavily involved in the successful community campaign to stop Walmart from building a mega store in Toronto's film industry district.

Also the honeymoon is over for Toronto's ultra right-wing mayor Rob Ford.   Some of the worst of his budget plans were defeated and his public transit agenda has largely been derailed.

So some small lessons that we can learn are that the labour movement has to not just be involved in traditional "union issues", but also in broader community issues.    The community will support the labour movement when the labour movement is seen as supporting the community.

Yes the percentage of the workforce that is unionized has been shrinking.    The thing that needs to be done is to organize everyone that needs to be organized.   It's not going to be an easy task by any means.   The laws are pretty much stacked against organizing unions.

In the 1930's the CIO was created in the U.S. and Canada to organize workers in mass production industries.   It was obvious that a new form of organization needed to be created to do the job.

We're in a new era where manufacturing jobs are being destroyed daily.   At the same time all kinds of precarious low wage, part-time and temporary jobs are being created.   Temp agencies are multiplying like cockroaches.

Perhaps a very old idea from the craft unions...the union hiring hall ... needs to be made new again.   This is being discussed as part of the CAW-CEP merger discussions as I understand.   I think it's a good thing.

Another interesting organization here in Toronto is the iTaxi Workers Association  It's a voluntary association of taxi drivers that does two things...provides services to taxi drivers like discounts on auto insurance and things like that.   The other thing they engage in is political action around taxi driver issues.   I understand that they've signed up about 10% of the cab drivers in Toronto and the association has a close connection with the Steelworkers Union.

From the members of iTaxi that I've talked to, there's no doubt that the long term goal is to form a union, but the workers in the industry aren't quite there yet.  

The labour movement can't just work to protect relatively high wage jobs.   We also have to find ways to organize and increase living standards amongst low paid workers.   Otherwise the ruling class simply tries to pit one group of workers off against the others.

In Israel, the Histradut labour federation managed to win some small victories for outsourced workers in the public sector after a four day general strike.   Yes I know that the Histadrut has a checkered history in relations with Palestinian workers. But it's good to see that they put the issue of contract workers on the front page of the Israeli labour movement's agenda. 

I don't lay claim to having all of the answers, but one thing I do think is that the current situation calls for new forms of organization and new ways of doing things.

Slumberjack

Unionist wrote:
Gaian, yet again, with his scorn for workers and their union, has made my "ignore" list.

I guess that leaves me on deck. At this juncture in the grand scheme, what is your take on why the various union bureaucracies wouldn't band together and put some of those hard earned workers dues to better use, other than using it to fund conferences, junkets and golfing excursions, and instead fund and transport any from the entire dues paying working class, any and all who would like to participate, to Parliament Hill for an occupation of their own? Invite the poor, the homeless, the McSerf worker, anyone and everyone who are not as fortunate as the bureaucracy itself that is, and camp out around bonfires or whatever.

Grandpa_Bill

radiorahim wrote:

Another interesting organization here in Toronto is the iTaxi Workers Association  It's a voluntary association of taxi drivers that does two things...provides services to taxi drivers like discounts on auto insurance and things like that.   The other thing they engage in is political action around taxi driver issues.   I understand that they've signed up about 10% of the cab drivers in Toronto and the association has a close connection with the Steelworkers Union. . . .

The labour movement can't just work to protect relatively high wage jobs.   We also have to find ways to organize and increase living standards amongst low paid workers.

Interesting info about iTaxi Workers Association.  Thank you!

Does your remark at the end about organizing and increasing living standards of lower paid workers lead you to believe that the union acceptance of two-tiered contracts is wrong-headed?

 

Unionist

radiorahim wrote:

Quote:
"The lesson we ought to draw from Caterpillar and EMD is this: unless we fight like our lives depended upon it, they will take our lives away from us. That doesn't mean our side will win all the time but at least we'll know that if we lost we gave them everything we had."

One little way to fight the transnational corporations we can do very easily and our lives don't depend on it.

We should try not to feed the data miners.   I did not comment on xray.ca's site because it requires everyone to submit their comments via data miners like Facebook, Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft (hotmail).   It's impossible to comment on the site any other way. [...]

Having gotten that out of the way, more to specifics on the Caterpillar situation and the state of the labour movement.

As "outsiders" to the particular struggle, the best thing we can do is to lend support to the actions that the CAW membership decides to take.   Some of us might feel that the CAW should have done certain things or should do certain things.   In the end it's the CAW that decides what to do and how to carry the struggle forward.

Thanks for your analysis on both those issues, rr.

I didn't much appreciate the article from xray magazine, written by a "Toronto-based screenwriter, story consultant and sometimes activist". I imagined an article by someone like that lecturing to the people of Attawapiskat that they didn't fight as if their lives depended on it, and they didn't fight against their own band leadership. My gut reaction to the article was, "thanks for the lecture".

Lecturing the EMD workers, or their union, as to what to do, is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Not only is it to blame the victims and interfere in their struggle - it is to abandon responsibility on the part of all workers, all Ontarians, all Canadians, to defend ourselves in solidarity against these attacks by rapacious multinationals.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Yes, trade unions are above criticism. They are all-seeing, all-knowing. Only a scoundrel would dare criticize, offer advice, or attempt to draw lessons from a trade union debacle.

Unionist

Strange mind glitch - that article reminded me of Barry Weisleder's article here, about a year ago, saying Canada should demand opening Libyan borders so that the rebels could receive arms. I guess the idea was that we should encourage them too to fight as if their lives depended on it.

I didn't appreciate that interference (and have continually raised it here, hoping for a response from Weisleder), and I don't much care to criticize the EMD workers or their union right now. Nor the people and leaders of Attawapiskat. You get the idea.

I always thought it was preferable to discuss what we should fight for, and how we should do it, rather than criticizing and advising those who are actually doing the fighting from what is appropriately known as the sidelines.

 

Fidel

They'd best stop voting for the two old line parties that betrayed unionized workers in Canada for the last 30 years and continue to do so. I think that would be a good place to start.

MegB

The inside scoop.

My partner, who is two years from retirement, is facing the shutdown of the London plant he's worked at for 31 years.  He belongs to the same CAW local as the Electro-Motive workers.  While the winding down of Accuride won't be nearly as vicious and acrimonious, it'll have the same impact on individuals, families, and London's economy.

Freedom 85, here we come!

autoworker

Is there anything to be learned from the United Technologies strike in Longueuil, back in the '70s (1975. I believe), when Pratt and Whitney wanted to move PT-6 production to the U. S.? From what I understand, that decision was thwarted by the Trudeau Government, at the time, because the turbine was developed and patented in Canada with Federal r&d subsidies. Is this correct, anyone? Is there anything here that can be applied to the Electro-Motive situation. I know that Ken Lewenza has formally requested a review of Caterpillar's purchase of the company. But, again from my understanding, the Harper Government invested in Electro-Motive, and enjoyed a much publicized photo-op to that effect. Were there any strings attached to the Federal money that Electro-Motive received, that might preclude the transfer of intellectual property to Indiana? Does Canada have any proprietary claim to the technology that was developed in London?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Advice from the "sidelines", from 2008, but still spot-on:

John Conway, U. of Regina, wrote:

Beginning in the 1980s, and accelerating after the fall of the Soviet Union, the international capitalist ruling classes again dominated the world as they had in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The reformist mask of capitalism was discarded, and a vicious neo-liberal “take-back” campaign began. The era of neo-liberal globalization was proclaimed as the justification for a relentless attack on the welfare state and the trade unions — a relentless attack on the working classes of the world.

As technology advanced, factories in high wage areas were closed and redistributed around the globe to low wage areas. Unions were faced with massive layoffs, and contract demands from employers included a whole variety of concessions to cheapen the costs of labour in order to achieve global competitiveness. Unions were compelled to take wage cuts, to accept benefit reductions or eliminations, to accept two-tier wage and benefit packages (one “grandfathering” existing workers with existing wages and benefits, the other for new hires with lower wages and fewer benefits).

Besides this attack on trade unions, capitalist political parties (which now included the formerly pro-labour social democratic parties) proclaimed that the new era of global capitalist competitiveness demanded massive cuts to the welfare state.

This campaign against the trade unions and the welfare state has been going on for over 25 years now, and continues to get worse and worse as the numbers of broken unions and discarded social programs mount each day.

Canada’s working class is on the ropes. Its major institutions — the trade unions — are reeling from successive defeats. The number of union members in Canada is in serious decline, from 35 per cent in the 1980s to 28 per cent today. The Canadian Auto Workers — Canada’s largest, most successful and most militant union — is in a state of collapse as cuts in the auto industry force it to its knees. The CAW, which denounced concession bargaining and proclaimed it would never, ever go down that road, has now fully embraced concession bargaining and two-tier contracts in the name of the “investment competitiveness” of its bosses.

These are dark days for the trade union movement, days of defeat, concessions, and cap-in-hand pleas to the bosses....

The political clout of the working class in Canada is at its lowest ebb since prior to the Great Depression. The NDP has bought into neo-liberal ideological hegemony, and has essentially become just another capitalist political party. Unorganized workers feel less and less sympathy for trade unions desperately trying to salvage their entitlements while leaving the unorganized to their fate. Public sympathy for unions is very low since unions appear only concerned about the narrow economic interests of their existing members.

What should the working class and its last remaining institution — the trade unions — do at this juncture?

Perhaps the trade unions should learn from history. What did trade unions do during the Great Depression, the last time capitalists tried to use an economic crisis to crush the modest gains the working class had made? The only power of the working class is its own self-organization. And that is what the trade unions and socialist activists did in the 1930s — they commenced a massive organizing drive of the unorganized; they fought strikes over demanded concessions; they occupied closed factories in solidarity with laid-off workers; they organized the unemployed and the poor; and they produced that great slogan of solidarity — “an injury to one is an injury to all,” and actually acted on it.

Today unions are not doing much of this. They say they want to do it, they pass resolutions and make speeches about doing it, but they are not acting....

The only way the working class ever obtained any effective power was through mass self-organization.

That was true in 1850, and it is even more true in 2008.

- excerpted from [url=http://www.socialistvoice.ca/?p=345]HERE[/url]

Fidel

Someone should tell Mr Conway that it was the Liberals and Tories together who gave the country away to corporate America with signing-up Canada for two very neoliberal trade deals in the 1980s and 90s. 

Someone should tell Conway that it was the Liberals who sold the environment to Exxon-Imperial and the fossil fuel industry. 

And for some reason he blames the NDP for all of that happening, or at least for being unable to promise/lie to reverse what has taken the last 30-35 years to make fubar. Conway wants big time socialism 180 degrees in the other direction, and he wants it now. And there are no suggestions on how to reverse 35 years of neoliberalism inside one four-year term in power. Nada next to nil as is typical of the anti-NDP propaganda. He might as well take out a Lib-Tory party membership and actually vote for that which he claims to oppose ie. neoliberal ideology.

John Conway forgoes the opportunity to identify who sold Canada to corporate America and over what length of time in order to throw in a petty jab at the NDP. As the kids would say, epic fail.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Fidel wrote:

Someone should tell Mr Conway that it was the Liberals and Tories together who gave the country away to corporate America with signing-up Canada for two very neoliberal trade deals in the 1980s and 90s. 

Someone should tell Conway that it was the Liberals who sold the environment to Exxon-Imperial and the fossil fuel industry.

I told him that, and he said he knows it already.

Then he asked me to ask you what the NDP has done to reverse the situation. He's anxious to hear your response.

Fidel

M. Spector wrote:

Fidel wrote:

Someone should tell Mr Conway that it was the Liberals and Tories together who gave the country away to corporate America with signing-up Canada for two very neoliberal trade deals in the 1980s and 90s. 

Someone should tell Conway that it was the Liberals who sold the environment to Exxon-Imperial and the fossil fuel industry.

I told him that, and he said he knows it already.

Then he asked me to ask you what the NDP has done to reverse the situation. He's anxious to hear your response.

 

Where was Mr Conway when the NDP was opposing Mulroney's scrapping of FIRA?

For the sake of posterity where is Mr Conway's letter of protest describing how sweeping changes to the Bank of Canada Act in 1991 were undemocratically rammed through parliament without any debate at the expense of democracy in general? I know which party officially opposed the making whole again of Canada's big six banking monopoly after they gambled away billions on foreign oil stocks and real estate speculation in the 1980s.

How did Mr Conway vote in 1988 and 1993 general elections when NDP was the only one of three parties in Ottawa that stood opposed to Mulroney's FTA and expansion of NAFTA by 1994? 

Conway is wrong if he thinks the NDP did not, on the record, oppose and vote against all of the above manuevering toward an unprecedented, unparalleled in the world  neoliberal  agenda emanating from Ottawa. 

I'm searching Google, and I can't find any of Mr Conway's comments in those years. I'm not sure where John Conway was or what he was doing in 1988-89, '91, or 1994, but I know where the NDP stood then. We just have to read Hansard to know that the NDP has consistently opposed the top-down neoliberal agenda emanating from Ottawa since the 1980s and even as early as 1975.

And the NDP's response is all over their web site. We begin by renegotiating NAFTA for the sake of Canadian workers and the environment, and we start with elected Canadian officials writing national energy policy for Canadians. But if Mr Conway thinks that 35 year's worth of neoliberal agenda can be undone inside one four-year term in government, it might be more realistic for him to start supporting the Walt Disney Party for Liberal castoffs and promises made on the cheap. That party will tell him anything he wants to hear while never lifting a finger to undo the neoliberalorama they helped to create in our northern colony. Previous federal Liberal Governments of Canada have an established record in power for anyone to check the campaign promises against their actual deeds when governing federally.

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Grandpa_Bill wrote:

Does your remark at the end about organizing and increasing living standards of lower paid workers lead you to believe that the union acceptance of two-tiered contracts is wrong-headed?

I think you'd find that pretty much every union is opposed to two tier contracts.   It's pretty simple.   Over time a gap develops between longer service workers and newer workers and it undermines solidarity and eventually weakens the union from within.   Of course that's part of the strategy of the ruling class.

Nevertheless some unions have ended up signing two tier contracts.   I don't necessarily think that this is because the unions are traitors to the working class or anything like that.    I think that it just represents the balance of forces between the labour movement and the ruling class.   For at least a couple of decades if not longer the ruling class has had the upper hand.

In my view, one significant victory of the "Occupy" movement...certainly a "new" movement with some different ways of doing things was that they got across one very simple message...about the 99% vs the 1%.   It's the first significant ideological opening for us to talk about the total greed of the ruling class.   Neo-liberal ideology has been dominant for 30+ years.

I think it's pretty clear to most folks...and I'm talking about "non political" folks ... is that they see Caterpillar's actions in London as being an act of total corporate greed.    If this had happened before the Occupy movement the "mainstream" discussion would probably have been about whether the CAW should have taken "half a loaf instead of no loaf at all".

autoworker

So, now that there's greater awareness that Ontario is a bona fide member of the Great American Rust Belt, what's to be done?

Grandpa_Bill

radiorahim wrote:

I think you'd find that pretty much every union is opposed to two tier contracts.   It's pretty simple.   Over time a gap develops between longer service workers and newer workers and it undermines solidarity and eventually weakens the union from within.   Of course that's part of the strategy of the ruling class.

Nevertheless some unions have ended up signing two tier contracts.   I don't necessarily think that this is because the unions are traitors to the working class or anything like that.    I think that it just represents the balance of forces between the labour movement and the ruling class.   For at least a couple of decades if not longer the ruling class has had the upper hand.

Thanks for your response.  The subject of two-tiered contracts is a difficult one on which reasonable men and women can (and do) disagree.

I was just wondering, in the context of what you see as a union need to be "organizing and increasing living standards of lower paid workers," whether you think that unions were wrong-headed to sign such contracts.  Do you believe that, on balance, signing two-tiered contracts was the best altenative open to unions that signed them?  Or do you think there were alternatives that, perhaps in retrospect, might have been better?

I'm an outsider with respect to both the contracts themselves and the negotiations that led to their being signed.  I'm looking for some opinions.

Unionist

[url=http://caw.ca/en/10971.htm]CAW Reaches Tentative Closure Settlement with Electro-Motive[/url]

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Too bad nobody listened to David Olive of the [url=http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1126643--olive-capitalism-s-ugly... Star[/url] on February 5:

David Olive wrote:

Recession-ravaged London, Ont., needn’t lose its status as one of the world’s leading locomotive manufacturing centres.

Yes, that is the plan revealed Friday by U.S.-based Caterpillar Inc., owner of London’s 90-year-old Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. (EMD). Caterpillar has abruptly shut down the firm just 18 months after buying it. Cat is poised to ship EMD’s specialized equipment and technology — intellectual property developed in London over several generations — to low-wage jurisdictions outside Canada.

Naturally, Caterpillar presents this outrage as a fait accompli.

Already there are calls for a government inquiry to determine how such industrial rape can be prevented in future. A good idea. But we also should and can quash Cat’s plans for EMD....

We could let EMD join the long list of trophies we’ve auctioned off to foreign interests, including Alcan Inc., Inco Ltd., Nortel Networks Corp.’s multibillion-dollar trove of patents, and Stelco Inc., whose new owner, U.S. Steel Corp., promptly reneged on its vow to maintain Stelco’s Hamilton workforce.

Or we could take a tad more control of our economic destiny.

We could nationalize EMD, for which there is abundant precedent across the continent. America’s third-largest bank, biggest insurer and dominant home-mortgage guarantors are now wards of the state.

Short of nationalization, Ottawa could impose prohibitive tariffs on all Cat products. That might eventually bring Athabasca tarsands production, heavily reliant on Caterpillar equipment, to a halt. Which would be a useful topic of discussion between Barack Obama and Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, since Athabasca is America’s largest source of imported oil.

Yes, the tariffs could be contested as an alleged violation of World Trade Organization rules. But then, it’s Cat alone that has consistently acted in bad faith....

Caterpillar likes to play hardball. So let’s play hardball.

You know things are pretty bad in social-democrat-land when the most militant and effective strategy ideas are coming from a Business Columnist in the MSM.

Unionist

I'm getting better - I already agreed with Spector on [url=http://rabble.ca/babble/labour-and-consumption/labour-mobilizes-support-.... 6[/url]!

I would've enjoyed seeing some hardball played here, but I guess the game got called on account of the left and the labour movement being somewhat on their knees these days - or, when upright, marching backwards.

 

Fidel

M. Spector wrote:

You know things are pretty bad in social-democrat-land when the most militant and effective strategy ideas are coming from a Business Columnist in the MSM.

 

What about the 14, 400+ other corporations and valuable assets pawned-off to corporate America since 1985? 

In some other thread a few years ago, you said it matters not who owns the means of production, or that FIRA pushed-for by the NDP was scrapped and basically replaced with one complicit and ongoing rubberstamp of approval for predatory U.S. takeovers and namely the neoliberal stoogeaucracy in Ottawa.

David Olive wrote:
We could nationalize EMD, for which there is abundant precedent across the continent.

I get a sinking feeling that nationalising one single company after the a herd was stolen from the barn under the watchful eye of an ongoing stoogeaucracy in Ottawa is kind of like installing screen doors in a submarine. Or using chewing gum to stop leaks in the dyke. It's an idea but not the solution in and of itself.   

Todrick of Chat...

Fidel,

The NDP is not interested in nationalising any business in Canada. Look at the most recent leadership threads.

 

Fidel

autoworker wrote:
 I know that Ken Lewenza has formally requested a review of Caterpillar's purchase of the company. But, again from my understanding, the Harper Government invested in Electro-Motive, and enjoyed a much publicized photo-op to that effect. Were there any strings attached to the Federal money that Electro-Motive received, that might preclude the transfer of intellectual property to Indiana? Does Canada have any proprietary claim to the technology that was developed in London?

CAW questions Caterpillar takeover of Electro-Motive

Quote:
Lewenza said no public independently verifiable data supports that claim and Caterpillar's own financial statement reported $1.3 billion US in assets associated with the takeover.

Caterpillar purchased Electro-Motive in 2010 for $820 million in cash from a pair of private equity firms. At the time, Electro-Motive also operated plants in LaGrange, Ill., and San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in addition to the plant in London. Electro-Motive opened a second U.S. plant in Muncie, Ind., later in 2010.

The valuation of each individual plant was not revealed by Caterpillar at the time.

"Unless this data is divulged and independently authenticated, we're simply taking Caterpillar's word for it that this acquisition was not subject to Investment Canada review," Lewenza said in his letter to Paradis.

The U.S.-based heavy equipment maker announced last week that it will close its Electro-Motive plant in London, a month after it locked out about 450 workers.

Lewenza said that if the value associated with Caterpillar's purchase of Electro-Motive turns out to be inaccurate, the government can impose penalties, including annulling the acquisition.

Our corrupt stooges in Ottawa might be able to annul the deal, but I doubt they will because the Harpers are corrupt and repent not of their corporate stoogery.

Fidel

Todrick of Chatsworth wrote:

Fidel,

The NDP is not interested in nationalising any business in Canada. Look at the most recent leadership threads.

 

Yes, and our two old line parties have salted away a pile of money to make it even easier for the NDP to nationalise 14, 418 former Canadian corporations now foreign-owned and controlled and mostly by rich Americans. Your nationalisation game quickly becomes a lesson in frustration and bankrupting the country even more than it is today after decades of old line party powerlessness and selling Canada down the Mississippi River. Someone pinch me and tell us that this was not an inside job perpetrated on behalf of foreign banksters, private creditors and the corporatocracy in general.

No rich country has allowed a third as much majority foreign ownership and control of its manufacturing sector as what Canada has. More than three dozen key sectors of Canada's economy are majority foreign-owned and controlled and mainly through corporate board rooms in America. Our national energy policy is dictated to us by corporate America since the Libranos sold the environment to Exxon-Imperial and the fossil fuel industry. 

Canada ships unprocessed oil and gas, raw logs and massive amounts of hydro-electric power to the States mostly, and they send value added finished products back to us at inflated prices. 

If you like the way it is, then make damned sure not to vote NDP - you'll get more of the same guaranteed.

autoworker

Volkswagen, and their German union IG Metall, have fought, with the help of Porsche, EU and WTO investment rules to keep control of the company in Germany. It is also worth noting that the State of Lower Saxony has a 20% interest and, I believe, has a seat on the Supervisory Board which, by German law, must be equally comprised of labour and equity stakeholders. The automotive giant's struggle to remain a German national icon is ongoing, and bears watching.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Fidel wrote:

No rich country has allowed a third as much majority foreign ownership and control of its manufacturing sector as what Canada has.

You somehow imagine all this is an argument against nationalization of branch-plant industries that threaten to pull out and lay off thousands.

In actuality, you sound more like a Liberal trying to make excuses for not taking back these industries and operating them in the public interest for the benefit of the workers who work there, rather than for the benefit of (foreign) capital. In fact, these are the same arguments I used to hear from Liberals forty years ago when nationalization was actually a vibrant part of labour and leftist discourse in Canada.

It's going to "bankrupt the country", according to you, to take over enterprises that are no longer of use to the foreign capitalists. You sound like a Liberal arguing that Canada's economic health depends on these same foreign capitalists. It's as if we're not going to be bankrupted so long as we allow them to take their assets and leave thousands of unemployed in their wake.

It's a naive belief in the power of private ownership of capital to serve the interests of Canadian workers.

Unionist

Hey Spector - don't forget, "It's a violation of NAFTA - they'll prosecute us and bankrupt us! Or invade us!"

All good reasons to do nothing.

 

Gaian

And I thought that Fidel finished with:"If you like the way it is, then make damned sure not to vote NDP - you'll get more of the same guaranteed."

However, it may be wishful thinking to hope for the Canadian workers to be suddenly politicised, or even be presented with workable policies to resolve the Canadian dilemma. As the late Tony Judt left for us, with Timothy Snyder seeing it to publication, Thinking the Twentieth Century: "Tigging the past is the oldest form of knowledge contro: If you have power over the interpretation of what went before (or can simply lie about it), the present and the future are at your disposal. So it is simple democratic prudence to ensure that the citizenry are historically informed....

"But even a well-educated citizenry is not sufficient protection against an abusive poliitical economy."

And have we ever got an "abusive political economy" after a half-century without concern for history. Charles Dickens also described, in Hard Times, how the ruling elite "served out, with an enervated air, the little mouldy rations of political economy on which they regaled their disciples. There never before was seen on earth such a wonderful hybrid race as was thus produced."

And left the working class beggared. Of course, they didn't have the vote, then.Not that it's meant a helluva lot, lately, with auto assembly workers being urged to vote Liberal (in better times) or comfortable keeping wee Jimmy Flaherty in place.The fella whose cuts did a number on the marginalized of Ontario.

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