Labour Joins Up

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The Canadian labour movement is participating in a direct action today. In a meeting here last night, union leaders and members decided to form an affinity group. Labour will act under the leadership of the Group Opposing Market Globalization (GOM) Action. This is the first instance that the reporter can remember of labour taking direction from an outside group.

The meeting was attended by Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) affiliates and representatives from the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW). The latter is no longer a part of the CLC, but that's another story. Together, they agreed to join with anti-globalization groups from across the country in a direct action at what is called the perimeter (the fence cordoning off the heads of state).

An affinity group operates on an independent and consultative basis. One is usually made up of between five and twenty people. A group chooses a spokesperson, a medic and a legal advisor, who act as supports for arrested or injured members. If there are enough participants, the likelihood is that the labour contingent will break down into several of these self-sufficient groups.

Carol Phillips, the director of CAW's international department, said today: "We [labour] have been embarrassed over how young people are continuing to mobilize and we're not. We want to be part of it."

Last year, at the Windsor protest against the Organization of American States, labour marshals were angry with direct action participants for violating the agreement between demonstration marshals and the police.

The unions will protest in the designated yellow-green zone, joining the anti-globalization group Mobilization for Global Justice, and others from Halifax and British Columbia. Green is seen as a safe area for supporters who do not want to participate in confrontation. Yellow is for non-violent civil disobedience actions, such as a sit-down, which carry some risk of arrest.

The more militant anarchist groups, including the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (la Convergence des luttes anti-capitalistes, or CLAC) are planning a red-yellow action. This means they are prepared for intense confrontation with police and almost-certain arrest.

Despite some tensions between People's Summit organizers and direct action groups, the Chapiteau (a big white circus tent in the Old City that has been the site of the alternative summit) has been designated a safe zone for protesters running from the police. The word is that labour representatives could form a human barricade between protesters and the police.

For more rabble news coverage of the Quebec Summit and its aftermath, please click here.

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