Four reasons why defending the postal workers must be labour's top priority

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Image: Solidarity Halifax member Emily Davidson of ALL CAPS Design

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This is no ordinary conservative attack.

This is a devastating attack on the most militant union in the country.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has long been a leader in the labour movement.

With a commitment to shop floor action and rank-and-file democracy, the postal workers have fought long and hard to make their jobs into good jobs that pay a good wage. Their commitment to women’s rights is equally impressive, with a strike to win maternity benefits that resulted in maternity benefits for most working women in Canada. Not to mention CUPW’s commitment to international solidarity.

Most importantly, the postal workers have fought for control of the process of their work. This key demand, that a worker should have a say in how the work is done, is the one demand capitalism will never tolerate. Under capitalism, unions are allowed to negotiate the terms of exploitation -- through wages and benefits -- but we can never negotiate how work is done, or suggest we can do it better ourselves without the boss.

CUPW has broken that rule of capitalism.

The postal workers’ collective agreement includes elements of workers' control of the shop floor and process of work, and they have fought hard to maintain these gains. Through strikes, lockouts and workplace action, CUPW is the model of a progressive, militant and committed working class union. All of our unions can learn from the posties.

That’s why this is so important.

If Harper and the Conservatives succeed in breaking the postal workers, none of us have a hope in hell.

CUPW has many advantages in this struggle. Their union has long forged relationships with our social movement allies in the student, women’s, peace and environmental movements. Our allies will be needed in this struggle. CUPW has also worked hard to maintain a relationship with the public, and letter carriers talk to millions of Canadians each day.

But CUPW can only be successful if the rest of the Labour movement comes to their aid. We cannot sit back and watch this happen, hoping it won’t be us next.

This is the time. This is the moment. This is the issue that defeats Stephen Harper and sends the Conservatives packing.

The Labour movement must rise to the challenge. Postal workers will lead, but we have to be ready to follow. From info pickets, door-to-door canvasses, leafleting, rallies, demonstrations, civil disobedience and even a general strike, these cuts must be opposed by all means necessary.

Let this become the symbol of all that is corrupt, rotten and wrong with this Conservative regime. From senate scandals, to patronage, to corporate tax cuts, let all of this become one struggle.

Let this be where we take our stand. Support our postal workers.

What must be done:

1. We must immediately begin to form community-labour coalitions across the country in support of the postal workers.

2. We need to begin to spread information, leaflets and graphics about the nature of these cuts -- who they will hurt, why this matters, etc.

3. We need to start talking to our neighbours about the loss of home mail delivery and start gathering the names of folks who don’t want to lose home mail delivery.

4. We need to talk to community organizations, seniors groups, non-governmental organizations, municipal councils, student unions, women’s centres, churches and other organization to build opposition to the Conservative cuts and loss of home mail delivery


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Kyle Buott is the President of Halifax-Dartmouth and District Labour Council and a member of Solidarity Halifax.

Image: Solidarity Halifax member Emily Davidson of ALL CAPS Design

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