Resistance to Ford

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Resistance to Ford

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Ontario Teachers Ramp Up the Pressure on the Tories

Ontario teachers are ramping up their fight against the Tories’ 18-month attack on public education.

On Tuesday, public elementary teachers stepped up their work-to-rule refusing, for example, to participate in performance evaluations, plan new field trips, buy school supplies on their own time and register for additional qualifications courses. Yesterday, many Ontario Secondary teachers staged another one-day strike in districts including Toronto, Grand Erie, Simcoe County, Muskoka and Rainy River.

Cranking up pressure on the government was pretty clear at the Elementary Teachers of Toronto’s (ETT) Federation Day last Friday. Mind you, both local president Joy Lachica and Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) head Sam Hammond, were keeping their cards close – acknowledging the 98 per cent strike vote of teachers, and the need to “harness our power” though not getting too specific about what comes next if the work-to-rule doesn’t produce results.

Messages of Activism

But the messages sent by the speakers ETT invited to the gathering of public elementary teachers across Toronto delivered a message of activism more plainly. Rachel Huot of Ontario Parent Action Network assured teachers that despite the government’s attempt to drive a wedge between them and parents, they won’t be on opposite sides of job actions. “This is our fight,” she said.

There was Maggie MacDonell winner of the 2017 Global Teacher Prize describing how she pushed, badgered and organized her way to create programs for Innuit youth in her Nunavik community of Salluit; about the bicycle repair shop worked by a notorious but reformed ex-bicycle thief or the Nunavik Running Club which has enabled young people to travel widely to compete. She spoke about the community hauling equipment for a rec centre overland by snow machines because the ship that was supposed to bring it all in, couldn’t make it into port. It was all about what a teacher can do as an organizer in her community.

Geneticist David Suzuki might have been talking directly to the Ford government as he outlined the dire environmental situation in which humans find themselves, the multiplier effect of our vast destruction of the natural world: “we think we’re so clever, but we have no idea what the long-term ramifications will be.”

But it was Jollene Levid who concentrated on the task facing Ontario educators right now. She is an organizer for the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) which won major concessions after a 6 day strike last winter.

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What About Ontario?

This is where educators across Ontario find themselves. They face a government that has been reckless with everything it has put its hands on and is now trying to touch up its image after a precipitous fall in popularity. After a disastrous federal election, the Tories are vulnerable.

But the Ford government is never going to be reasonable despite what Education Minister Stephen Lecce claims; it’s in too deep. It can’t afford to look weaker than it already does. If it had any sense of reason it would never have cut health care, social services, child care, environmental programs, the cap and trade agreement, half of Toronto’s city councillors, the Basic Income Pilot Project, the province’s child advocate, school board budgets and endlessly so on, while it appointed friends to key government positions.

No one, likely not even the Minister, believes that this government is bargaining in good faith with educators. It capped wage increases to 1 per cent and offered to increase class sizes to only 25 rather than 28; to require secondary school kids to take only 2 credits online rather than 4. This doesn’t take into account that slashing school board budgets alone, resulted in higher class sizes, cuts to programs and cuts to services.

Education sector unions tested the waters and have seen tens of thousands of people show up to rallies over the past year. Parent and community groups are cropping up everywhere; students have gone out on strike to stop education cuts. Unions need to keep moving forward as they build a coalition of public and Catholic teachers in both elementary and secondary panels to put an enormous strain on Doug Ford and the sycophants who enabled his policies. As one teacher on the strike line last Wednesday said:

“I think it’s great that we’re out today. I think it’s what it’s going to take, really causing that disruption that puts the pressure on the government that forces them to come to the bargaining table. It’s also really heartening to hear all the public support – you can hear that in the background… it sends a really clear message to the government that the public, parents, students and teachers united are against these cuts.”

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OCUFA stands in support of legal challenge to Ford government’s attack on workers’ rights

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations stands in solidarity with our colleagues in the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, and the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens as they launch a legal challenge of the Ford government’s new legislation capping public sector wage increases. The Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act fundamentally undermines the constitutionally protected right to free and fair collective bargaining, threatens pay equity and benefits for marginalized workers, and will erode labour relations in the public sector. 

University faculty and academic librarians firmly believe in the right to free and fair collective bargaining. It is through this process that equity is fostered, ensuring that good jobs and fair pay are provided to traditionally under-compensated groups, including women-identified, racialized, and contract faculty. Instead of attacking hard-working Ontarians, the government should be investing in the province’s public services and education system to ensure smaller class sizes for students where positive relationships can be fostered and learning can thrive. 

It is unfortunate that this court challenge is necessary, but the Ford government has consistently rejected opportunities to lead constructive conversations about the future of education in Ontario.....  

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When poverty mattered: remembering the Poor People’s Conference of 1971

Unknown to the people at the Toronto based Praxis research institute its stolen files and conference registration forms happen to be in the hands of the RCMP Security Service following a mysterious and unsolved burglary and fire at its office in a house on Huron Street just north of the University of Toronto. Yet, Praxis still managed to pull together one month later Canada’s first and perhaps only national gathering of poor people.

The Poor People’s Conference

After the burglary of the Praxis offices, staff member Lynn Lang was scrambling to reassemble the list of delegates for the upcoming conference from scratch. Praxis was now deprived of an office, files or desks and had to set up shop elsewhere. This was before the invention of the Internet, smart phones and other electronic devices that would have helped them communicate with far flung delegates across the country. Leonard Shifrin at the National Council of Welfare, which had been responsible for conceiving the event in the first place, gave Praxis access to free government phones to make arrangements for the conference. The unsolved crime and initial media coverage emboldened more people than had been expected to decide to cross the country and show up for the conference. The funding to cover their transportation costs came courtesy of several federal government departments. The largest donor was Health and Welfare, which contributed $68,000 towards the travelling and billeting costs of the approximately five hundred delegates from about two hundred organizations, identified as active low-income groups.

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A wide range of resolutions were passed that pointed sharply at the state of poverty in Canada in 1971 that sound familiar to our ears today. They included insufficient housing, the high rate of economic inequality, the tax advantages provided to the wealthy and the lack of meaningful work. A raft of motions expressed outrage at the treatment of all poor people, including Indigenous Peoples, people of colour and other minorities, at the hands of the law, police and prisons. One resolution spoke of the police entrapping citizens to commit a crime and then arresting them for doing it. Another requested assistance for those released from a penal institution, and a third asked for less use of solitary confinement. Unfortunately, no specific examples or cases were mentioned in the handbook of resolutions but they seem to reflect discontent in the early seventies with the Canadian justice system. Also taken to task were the provinces and the federal government for not living up to their respective legal obligations in the provision of social assistance under the Canada Assistance Plan.

What generated the greatest attention in the press and some political fireworks involved telegrams sent by delegates to governments in Ottawa and Quebec, condemning the “repressive legislation” in the War Measures Act and calling for the restoration of civil liberties to Canadian citizens in Quebec. The War Measures Act was passed by Parliament on October 16, 1970, at the urging of Pierre Trudeau’s government during the October Crisis. Only the small federal NDP caucus led by Tommy Douglas stood opposed to the bill.

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In a proactive measure the RCMP Security Service had planted agents or found informants among the delegates at the national conference. “The purpose of the Conference was to unite the poor into a national force to solve the problems of poverty. Praxis Corporation and the Just Society viewed the Conference as a vehicle through which the delegates could be politicized and by placing their own followers in key positions on the National Committee,” wrote High and Green. This was not the experience of Wilson Head, who found delegates at the Poor People’s Conference to be fractious and not easily controlled by anybody, including Praxis. In October 1970, around the time the crisis in Quebec was unfolding,….

Don Beavis, an official with the Security Panel Secretariat at the Privy Council Office (PCO), contacted the RCMP Security Service. He stated that four senior cabinet ministers — Robert Andras, Robert Stanbury, Donald MacDonald and John Munro — were showing an interest in “any additional information concerning Praxis.” The list included Munro, whose department had hired Praxis to organize the national Poor People’s Conference but appeared uneasy about the contract. Quietly though, Munro “had requested that a full confidential report on all Praxis people be supplied,” wrote F.E. Goudge, an official from the Department of Health and Welfare to the RCMP Security Service on December 30, 1970, just two weeks after the break-in and fire at the institute office.

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COALITION OF ONTARIO UNIONS TO LAUNCH CHARTER CHALLENGE AGAINST BILL 124

Today, ten Ontario unions representing more than 250,000 thousand affected broader public sector employees, announced their intention to launch a coordinated Charter challenge against Bill 124. As well, the Ontario Labour movement, with the Power of Many, will be initiating an aggressive campaign to repeal Bill 124.

The joint Charter challenge announced today is being brought by a coalition of public and private sector unions that represent workers across the broader public sector. The coalition includes: the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE); Service Employees International Union (SEIU Healthcare); United Steelworkers (USW); Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC); the Society of United Professionals (IFPTE) Local 160; Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE Ontario); AMAPCEO – Ontario’s Professional Employees; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 175. Additional unions and organizations representing public sector workers in Ontario are expected to join this coordinated challenge or pursue their own separate legal challenges to Bill 124 in the coming weeks.

“The workers of this province, represented by their unions, will not allow Bill 124, which erodes the Charter rights of every worker in Ontario, to stand uncontested,” said Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Patty Coates. “The OFL stands in solidarity with the education unions that have recently launched their challenges to the application of Bill 124 in the education sector, as we escalate the opposition to this government’s continued attack on the Charter rights of all Ontarians. Together, we are launching an aggressive campaign to demand the Ford Conservatives repeal this unconstitutional legislation.”.....

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Voyago drive is frontline against transit privatization

On Thursday December 12 the Amalgamated Transit Union Canada staged an info picket at the Voyago Headquarters in London, Ontario. ATU locals from across southern Ontario participated, as well as members of OPSEU and the London and District Labour Council.

The action was called in support of an ATU Canada organizing drive on the property where workers are facing management intimidation and harassment. This came to head on the previous Monday when a worker was suspended from her position for actively participating in the drive.

TAKING ON MULTINATIONAL TRANSDEV

Voyago provides non-emergency patient transfer, handi-transport services, and school bus services. It operates throughout Ontario and Quebec and in April was purchased by the Multinational corporation Transdev.

Transdev is a worldwide transportation group that is looking to make large inroads into the Canadian market. It has already established partnerships to help run the Edmonton LRT, Huronontario LRT  in Mississauga, as well as bus services in the York Region.

Transdev rakes in nearly $10 billion in profits every year, and is notorious for its poor working conditions and low pay. At Voyago, the highest wage is around $18/hour. The industry average is closer to $24/hour. This impacts quality of life for the workers and certainly impacts the quality of service for the passengers.....

Douglas Fir Premier

 

I don't really have an opinion on the charter challenge, but I did read a twitter thread on the subject, written by a labour studies prof, which I found illuminating.

https://twitter.com/Prof_Savage/status/1207699133127110667

kropotkin1951

In labour law like most law justice delayed is justice denied. Charter challenges are for show not for protecting the front line workers. Ford will act just like the BC Liberals and drag out the court challenge for 5 to 6 years and then when ordered to rectify it will pass legislation that precipitates a second Charter challenge and takes another couple of years. The teachers in BC went that route and eventually won the right to bargain class sizes and other things that had been stripped from their collective agreements. The current BC NDP government is as tightfisted as the previous government and so unions are discovering that the right to bargain, even with an supposedly sympathetic employer, leads to a brick wall.

Our unions have been going backwards slowly for almost two generations. The last generation to make significant gains did it in illegal actions of trespass and occupation, not with lawyers.