Wynne’s Budget: More Austerity

By Alex Hunsberger, CUPE

The defeat of Hudak in the June 12 Ontario general election was indeed remarkable. The Liberals, meanwhile, campaigned to the left, presenting themselves as the progressive alternative to the PCs hard-right austerity program, winning a majority government on that basis.
Their apparent credibility as a genuine progressive voice was enhanced by the decision of the NDP to put forward a centrist platform void of anti-austerity rhetoric that largely focused on combating Liberal corruption.

Central to the Liberals’ claim that they were easing austerity and focusing on improving public services was their proposed Budget 2014, which increased spending and maintained a substantial deficit while promising certain reformist measures like a new Ontario pension plan.
Anger at the NDP’s rightward drift led some to believe the Liberal hype that their budget was a progressive alternative. But a close reading of Budget 2014 reveals that it is at its core a plan for several more years of harsh austerity across all sectors.


Overall austerity for at least three more years
The plan is for spending to be essentially flat lined in the first year. Then in the following two years, the government proposes much harder fiscal tightening, increasing overall spending by just 0.6 per cent in 2015-16 and 0.1 per cent in 2016-17.
 
The government’s own estimates indicate it expects inflation to rise to 2.0 per cent after this year and for population growth to continue at 1.0 per cent due to natural increases and positive net migration.
In other words, to maintain services at current levels (i.e. sustain current real per capita program spending), a 3.0 per cent annual spending increase is needed. In just three years, then, the government plans to slash real per capita program spending by 5.3 per cent from current levels.


What do these numbers mean for users of public services and the workers who provide them? The short answer: for users, poorer quality service and higher user fees; for workers, wage freezes, cuts to benefits, and higher workloads. No sector will be unaffected.


Health cuts hurt patients and workers

Hospitals have already seen a budget freeze for two years, not having received increases in their base operating funding in either 2012-13 or 2013-14. The government confirms it will continue the freeze in 2014-15, and based on flat-lined overall program spending over the next two years it is safe to assume the freeze will continue for two additional years. This means five consecutive years of 0 per cent increases for hospitals, and amounts to a massive austerity program. There is no way such cuts can go forward without affecting the quality of patient care and working conditions

Attacks on higher education

The Ontario Liberals have consistently billed themselves as the defenders of a strong post-secondary education system. But after a modest $200 million increase in funding this year, Budget 2014 proposes freezing spending for the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities at $7.8 billion in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
 Ontario will likely keep the dubious honour of having the highest tuition fees in the country.

The continuing assault on free collective bargaining

Trade unionists in the public sector know that the bargaining climate in the past couple years has been particularly difficult and acrimonious. In the broader public sector, unions have made major concessions, either “voluntarily” with the threat of legislative intervention looming or, for those unions that resist, through the actual imposition of special legislation.
OPSEU members in the core public service fall into the former camp, having agreed last year to a two-year wage freeze. Public school teachers are an example of the latter case, having had a contract imposed on them through Bill 115 that handed them a two-year wage freeze alongside rollbacks to sick leave benefits
Budget 2014 explicitly plans for a concessions climate for at least three more years. The government is putting no money in the budget for negotiated compensation increases, even to allow salaries to keep up with inflation. Since no union is likely to agree to a five-year wage freeze, particularly on top of other concessions, Wynne’s claim to respect free collective bargaining will no doubt be revealed once again to be a charade as the government moves to impose austerity on workers by force.


Who pays for the global economic crisis?
The Wynne government’s political strategy to move forward with austerity is to pit public sector workers against private sector workers, blaming the former for the falling living standards of the latter. Any time public sector workers attempt to negotiate better working conditions—or, more commonly in the current climate, maintain what they already have—the government argues that greedy workers are to blame for the declining quality of public services. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Ontario has a substantial deficit not because of profligate spending or skyrocketing public sector salaries but because the 2008 financial crisis depressed government revenues while forcing the province to increase spending to prevent complete economic collapse. The government brags in Budget 2014 that it takes in the least revenue and spends the least on programs per capita out of all ten provinces. It also advertises that it has been a tough employer at the bargaining table.


The reality is that workers in both the public and private sectors are paying for the crisis capitalists—and capitalism—caused. Corporations operating in Ontario are enjoying record-low taxes due to years of federal and provincial rate cuts, as well as lucrative subsidies, while workers are being told the cupboards are bare when it comes to important public services.


From anti-Hudak to anti-austerity

While claiming progressive credentials, the Liberals like the PCs are a party of a capitalist class that is fully committed to the neoliberal austerity project. Trade unionists are now faced with the sober reality that defeating Hudak did not defeat the austerity agenda he championed.
The task ahead is to build on the momentum the fight against Hudak has generated in the labour movement, as well as the inevitable disappointment of those still hoping the Liberals will offer a real alternative, to make the case that we need to continue to fight against austerity agenda.
negotiate

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A United Labour Movement Defeats Hudak

hudak stoppedby Pam Johnson, OPSEU
Although Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals won a majority in Ontario, the real story of the 2014 election is the sound defeat of Tim Hudak and his hard line platform of attacks on workers, unions and the public services with the support of a united labour movement.

Media analysts say the result indicates no mood for Hudak ‘tea party’ politics, but this was not apparent going into the election with polls showing Hudak in the lead. Hudak’s announcement of 100,000 public sector job cuts near the end of the campaign backfired miserably, attempts to square these cuts with the creation of a million jobs was a strategic and mathematical blunder.

Trade union solidarity against Hudak
Hudak missteps were not the only reason that he went down in flames. The other critical element was the role of trade unions that carried a clear and unified Stop Hudak message. Both public and private unions poured resources into a Stop Hudak media campaign and internal messaging to their own members.

Evidence that this plan was working showed when the PCs lost a by election in February in Niagara to NDPer, Wayne Gates, a trade unionist. After this defeat and following internal party strife, Hudak backed away from the ‘right-to’work’ piece of his platform.

Workers’ rights campaign and rank and file organizing
This broad level of solidarity within the labour movement is unparalleled in recent decades and was key to Hudak’s defeat. But, the labour leaders needed to be pushed by pressure from below. When Hudak’s white paper announcing his intention to attack unions came out two years ago labour leaders failed to respond to the threat.

But there has been growing concern about attacks on unions in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana–as well as the palpable anger of growing layers of workers against concessions and cuts, and support for the $14 minimum wage campaign.

When the Toronto and York Region Labour Council hosted a mass meeting to put workers’ rights on the agenda, hundreds attended. The approach was a rank and file organizing strategy to raise the issue and to boost union renewal from the bottom up.

Subsequent town hall meetings organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour, other Labour Councils and some union area councils carried the Stop Hudak message and supported the building of rank and file networks.

This activity, although not massive, was building the pressure. When the election was called and leaders could see a possible Hudak victory, unions produced a flood of videos, TV ads and utilized social media to amplify the message. Hudak was defeated and the unified effort across the labour movement as a whole was duly noted by the media and the defeated PCs.

NDP and Strategic voting
The downside was support for strategic voting for the Liberals to insure Hudak’s defeat. Sadly, NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who had been steadily moving right and distancing herself from her trade union base, did not relate to the anger against austerity.

Horwath’s unwillingness to support the minimum wage campaign, trade unions rights—she was a no show at a 30,00 strong teachers rally against Liberal Bill 115, and a populist play for small business votes made her appear to be less progressive than the Liberals. Anger at Horwath’s rightward shift and fear of Hudak pushed people to the Liberals.

Wynne’s Plan: Austerity for Public Sector Workers
Despite Wynne’s tack to the left, a close look at her budget shows that it contains the same austerity measures proposed by Hudak and her predecessor Dalton McGuinty. (See back page article) The centrepiece is an attack on public sector workers and unions and, by extension to public services.
In her first statements after the election she recommitted to this plan saying there is no money for public sector workers who have had wages and benefits frozen and rolled back for two years already.
Her promise to cut $1.25 billion to balance the budget will mean the loss of 30,000 public sector jobs and the services that go with them. The ‘austerity speak’ about balancing budget puts Wynne in lock-step with the neoliberal agenda that has been thoroughly discredited.
Keeping up the fight against austerity. But Wynne is getting no honeymoon. A protest against cuts to refugee health four days after the election called out the Liberals for not fulfiling their promise to reinstate cuts. Injured workers who are being harassed and denied benefits are planning actions across the province.
What was accomplished by rank and file organizing to revitalize union militancy, even on a small scale, in defeating Hudak must continue and developed. This will keep pressure on both the union leadership and the NDP. More importantly it builds the confidence of workers to fight for themselves and to turn their unions into a force to fight for their interests.

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Tim Hudak’s threat to Ontario workers is not over

By Laura Kaminker, CUPE 966

Last September, when Tim Hudak announced that he intended to break Ontario’s unions, it came as no surprise to labour activists. The head of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, cynically framing the issue as one of “choice,” talked about “right-to-work” .

workers occupying the Wisconsin capital

workers occupying the Wisconsin capital

Union workers throughout Ontario understood the threat and mobilized. Then, two weeks ago, Hudak rescinded his right-to-work plan. Activists throughout the province cheered, and with good reason.

He took right-to-work off the table because of our resistance. Union workers and the a good portion of the general public made so much noise about right-to-work that members of Hudak’s own party began to see the issue as an election liability. In other words, the fightback worked. And now, if we consider the battle won, if pack up our tents and return to complacency, we’ll be blindsided when the next threat hits.

Wisconsin: a cautionary tale

Right-to-work is only one torture instrument in the shock-doctrine toolbox of this anti-labour, anti-human agenda. Consider this from the New York Times story, “Wisconsin’s Legacy for Unions,” about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s union-busting tactics:

Mr. Walker’s landmark law — called Act 10 — severely restricted the power of public-employee unions to bargain collectively, and that provision, among others, has given social workers, prison guards, nurses and other public employees little reason to pay dues to a union that can no longer do much for them. . . . . [Act 10] bars public-sector unions from bargaining over pensions, health coverage, safety, hours, sick leave or vacations. All they can negotiate is base pay, and even that is limited: any raises they win cannot exceed inflation.”

 

Hudak’s next target: public sector unions

And what is the next threat? Hudak himself said: ‘we’re not going to change the so-called ‘Rand Formula.’ Our agenda is a lot bigger, and a lot more ambitious, than that.

Now compare this to one slice of Hudak’s “Million Jobs Act”.

The Tories say that, if elected, they would save $2 billion by freezing public sector wages across the board. In an earlier announcement, they said they would find even more savings by slashing 10,000 jobs in the education sector.

Exactly how does freezing wages and slashing jobs create jobs? Ontario is bleeding manufacturing jobs as corporations chase the higher profits gained from a low-wage workforce in countries without health, safety, and environmental protections. Instead of mounting a real response that would protect good jobs and strengthen our communities, our politicians can only talk about corporate tax cuts… which lead to cutting social services… which means squeezing the people who provide those services… who are more likely to be unionized workers. Corporate tax cuts don’t create jobs. They weaken our economy.

Mobilize now: the lesson from Michigan

Hudak can try any number of sneaky methods of union-busting, or, if elected, he can slap right-to-work back on the table. That’s what happened in Michigan. The right-wing National Review ran a story called “The New Wisconsin,” which details how Michigan quietly became a right-to-work state.

Yet before anything could happen in Michigan, the right-to-work movement needed to overcome at least one more obstacle: [Republican] Governor Rick Snyder, who had announced during his race [in 2012] that right-to-work would not be on his agenda. He called it “too divisive” — a label that must have seemed entirely fitting as he watched Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, his neighbor across Lake Michigan, suffer through 18 months of partisan strife. The unions thought they detected weakness and began to push for what would become Proposal 2, a 2012 ballot initiative to enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution, effectively putting compulsory unionism beyond the reach of right-to-work reformers.’

“This turned out to be a priceless gift,” says Mike Shirkey, a Republican legislator and right-to-work ringleader. “It gave us the entire summer to frame the debate and let us tell voters that we’re not out to destroy unions but to protect workers’ rights.”

Snyder was elected in November 2012, and right-to-work was passed the following month.

In Wisconsin, with unions out of the way, the drive to destroy the fruits of the labour movement has begun: state Republicans have introduced a bill to repeal the five-day work week.

Don’t let this happen here.

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The Fleck Strike, The Rand Formula and Women’s Power

Paul Denison, OPSEU

In 1945 the Rand formula, a major labour legal ruling was won. The ruling specifies that anyone in a work- place benefiting from union representation must pay union dues through mandatory dues check-off.

This enabled unions to become more secure, stable, institutions and equally importantly it freed up stewards from the duty of dues collection and allowed them more time to assist members.

Initially however the RAND decision was a precedent and not yet law. An employer didn’t have to implement mandatory dues check-off and if a union was facing a particularly intransigent employer and they weren’t strong enough to force them, it was possible for employers to avoid it.

The Rand formula was brought into law in 1980 following a long, incredibly hard fought strike by a group of primarily women workers at the Fleck plant in Centralia ON.

Fleck was a non unionized auto parts plant. Wages were much lower then other similar plants in the area (slightly above minimum wage,) working conditions were poor, the workplace was unsafe and it was common for the women working there to be subject to sexual harassment from the male upper management. Many of the women on the assembly line were young, single mothers and were paid lower wages than the male maintenance workers.

The workers voted to unionize in the fall of 1977, but by the spring of 1978 the first contract had still not been settled and the workers voted to go on strike. Although they know that it would be a challenge, they had no idea how difficult and historic their struggle would become. Many of the women took inspiration and confidence from the ongoing women’s movement.

James Fleck, the owner, was virulently anti-labour and determined to keep the union out, he was the deputy minister of industry and tourism and very influential in the conservative government of Bill Davis. A fact which likely explains the unprecedentedly high police presence at the picket lines

Women strikers hold the line

950 police in riot gear, helicopters and police vehicles were brought in to police a strike of 87 women. On one day a newspaper reporter counted “53 cruisers, 4 paddy wagons, one bus of OPP and 4 station wagons with dogs.” It was the most expensive single policing event in OPP history up to that time.

The day before the strike, in an effort to intimidate the workers the employer called a meeting at the plant. Present at this meeting was an OPP official who read out sections of the criminal code pertaining to picketing but of course,
no mention of the workers legal rights. “Many of them got the impression that strikes were illegal, that they might go to jail for five years. They struck any- way” -Toronto Star May 1978

The women refused to be intimidated. Showing astonishing courage the workers struck for 163 days. The police often exhibited appalling behavior, constant sexual insults, harassment, grabbing and pushing, hitting the picketers with billy clubs, but the women didn’t back down and fought back with resilience and tenacity.

As the strike went on they were joined in solidarity by thousands of workers from other unions, from the women’s movement and from the local community.

The strike was finally settled 23 weeks later. Not only did the women win their contract but their battle led directly to the Rand formula being written into Ontario law.

Today, as we face the threat of losing the Rand formula its important to reflect on the courage of past workers who originally won it. To let it go now would be disastrous, and a slap in the face to the achievements of past workers. We can take inspiration from the Fleck workers; they won despite all odds and so

 

fleck strike

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Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Triangle-Fire-gsOctavian Cadabeschi, Unite Here Local 75

An examination of the massive strike wave of 1909-1913 reveals that the history of women’s liberation, the early days of North American industrial unionism, and rank and file organizing are all very closely intertwined.

Beginning in the first few decades of the twentieth century, New York’s textile industry relied almost exclusively on immigrant women and Jewish women for labour. The growth of industrialization, and the shift to factory-made clothing, gradually transformed a highly skilled cottage industry—that many women relied on to support themselves and their families—into a largely deskilled industrial process. Therefore, many working class women worked in sweatshop conditions in “light” industry. Difficult and unsafe working conditions, long hours, and low pay caused women to be at the forefront of early industrial labour struggles.

In fact, women workers of the time strongly believed that their struggles in the workplace were intertwined with their struggle for liberation. According to academic Jennifer Gugliemo, some Italian working women would use the word femminismo to refer to their work; however, most women preferred the word emancipazione, because it described the all-encompassing nature of the freedoms they desired.

Rank and File Resistance

Long before the Triangle factory fire, Rank and file resistance in the workplace was a daily occurrence for women working in the garment industry. In many situations, if a single woman was harassed by management, her co-workers would walk off the job; often this led to spontaneous strikes. Women also stole time from management by coordinating together to slow down their pace of work.

Though Trade Unions in the garment industry were quite small to start off with, they were quickly successful. The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, and the Inter- national Workers of The World had already began recruiting energetically, and secured some major victories against New York employers.

In 1909, the first major strike in the New York garment indus- try had already broken out under the auspices of the ILGWU as the “Uprising of 20000,” named for the number of women who had participated. Though the strike itself was only a partial victory, the sheer number of participants was a major success considering that just a few years before, the union had consisted of only a few hundred members. Another major strike in Hoboken, led by rank and file women, was organized under the auspices of the IWW at roughly the same time.

The strike of 1909 specifically identified the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory with hazardous working conditions. Thus, when the building went up in flames in 1910, the anger of New York garment workers was overwhelming. The fire spread due to flammable oil that was kept close to fabric cuttings. Most exits on each floor were locked by the employer in order to limit workers’ movements, and the fire escape was rusty and unmaintained causing those that tried to climb down to fall to their deaths. The factory was essentialy a death trap.

Ultimately, 146 garment workers, primarily women of Jewish and Italian descent, died in the fire. Dozens of women died jumping out of ninth story windows to avoid the flames only to shatter the concrete below with the impact of their fall. The owners survived the fire by running up to the roof at the first sign of trouble. Charges were brought against them but their punishment was only a few hundred dollar fine.

The ensuing anger convinced many women working in the garment trades that joining unions and fighting was the only way to improve their situation. Thus, membership in the ILGWU rose from a few thousand in 1909, to several hundred thousand by 1913.

More importantly, ensuing mass mobilization was led entire- ly by rank and file women workers. Though men made up the upper leadership of both the ILGWO and the IWW, they were unable to make headway with women workers unless they opened the door to rank and file decision making and organizing.

The women who accounted for the organizing teams worked the same jobs as the others and experienced extreme repression for their actions. In several instances, women were beaten up and arrested, or targeted by hired thugs from the mob who would intimidate and attack organizers. However, the women persevered and earned a reputation as courageous and talented leaders. They successfully organized their workplaces bringing in tens of thou- sands of new workers into their unions time and again.

As a result, the period of 1910 to 1913 was a time of major labour uprising. Garment workers rose up in tens of thousands in strikes, sympathy strikes and even general strikes; mass demonstrations consisting of over a hundred thousand workers took to the streets. As the number of striking participants increased, so too did the level of their militancy. In the 1913 garment workers’ strike, a group of several hundred women attempted to occupy a factory in Manhattan. Armed with umbrellas, they broke through police lines and, according to the press, “fought like furies” once inside.

However, the strike wave came to a halt due to a couple of critical defeats as well
as general economic downturn and unemployment. In some cases, this was also due to the efforts of upper union leadership to undermine the rank and file process. Yet, the mass mobilization of 1909 to 1913 irrevocably altered the socio-economic landscape for women and workers in North America.

It was the birth of industrial unionism in the region. It made the International Ladies Garment Workers Union one of the largest in the country, and brought the IWW the notoriety it needed to successfully organize in the west. Many strikes during the period were won thereby signifigantly improving conditions for garment workers. The period of 09 to 13 also lead to the emergence of legislative reforms that tangibly improved worker’s safety. Ultimately, years of persistence in mass mobilization also manifested in political progress as in 1917 New York State become the first U.S. state where women won the right to vote.

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International Women’s Day-Toronto 2014

Carolyn Egan, Steelworkers local 8300
International Women’s Day has long been celebrated in the trade unions as well as the women’s movement. It was originally put forward at a socialist women’s con- ference held in Copenhagen in 1910 in commemoration of immigrant women garment workers who had earlier struck for dignity and respect in New York City.

It’s roots are tremendously important for us today because they point to the importance of building solidarity with women who are fighting for their rights in the workplace today.Governments and corporations around the globe are enforcing the neo-liberal agenda. The gap between rich and poor is widening. Women, particularly racialized women, are bearing the brunt of these attacks.

Jobs and services
There have been huge layoffs in the manufacturing sector in Ontario. Good unionized jobs have been replaced by contract and precarious work. More and more are going into the services sector without union protection. Over 4,000 home care workers struck in December demanding higher wages and better conditions from a for-profit company. Organized workplaces such as Zellers have been bought out and Target, a non-union company, has taken over. Anti-union labour laws have made organizing much more difficult, with intimidation and harassment occurring when workers try to unionize. Privatization has been imposed in the public sector accompanied by significant job loss. Canada Post is planning to reduce its work force by 6,000 to 8,000 if its plans to stop home delivery are not stopped. Veterans services are being cut back across the country, with those providing services losing their jobs.
Toronto IWD

Toronto has been celebrating International Women’s day since 1978 with a rally and march highlighting women’s key demands. A coalition of unions and women’s organizations has been meeting to determine the critical issues facing women both young and old in this city. The theme this year is “Women Taking Power.” The issues women have
prioritized are “$14 minimum wage now!”, “Public services are women’s services” and “Generation Squeezed: We demand our future!”. These speak to the reality of women’s lives as well as the need to mobilize the anger that is felt by so many due to the conditions they face. A march of thou- sands is expected to wind its way through the streets of the city, hopefully giving women and their allies the confidence to continue the fight. The province of Ontario has refused the demand for a $14 minimum wage, with future promises only to raise it to $11/hr. It is turning its back on those who most need a wage increase, working for below poverty line wages. The attack on public services is putting a huge burden on women to take on more responsibility for family and children. Seniors can’t afford to access services that now have user fees. Children can’t access swimming and other recreational facilities for the same reasons. Subsidies for childcare are hard to come by and after school programs are more expensive. It goes on and on. Young women are under and unemployed and feel their futures have been stolen from them. All of this has created huge anger. Hopefully International Women’s Day this year will express more visibly and forcefully than ever that women are rising with their allies and fighting back for a better world.
IMG_1766

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No Line 9 – Remembering the Teamster/Turtle Alliance

by Octavian Cadabeschi – From the Rank and File editorial board

Enbridge’s Line 9 reversal project has become an increasingly debated issue in Ontario, and it has the potential of recreating the old divide that once existed between environ- mentalists and labour, which must be avoided at all costs.

The line 9 reversal is a proposal to rework a pipeline built in 1976 carrying light crude oil from Montreal to Sarnia, and instead to reverse it’s flow in order to carry tar sands dillbit from Alberta. This pipeline passes within 50 kilometres of 9.1 million people, including 99 towns and cities, and 18 First Nations communities.

Enbridge—bad track record
Enbridge already has a bad track record when it comes to pipeline spills, with over 800 individual incidents since 1999 alone. Some are as bad as the spill in 2010 that released 20,000 barrels of oil into the Kalamazoo river in Michigan, which is still currently being cleaned up now.
The plan to pump tar stands dillbit through this ageing pipeline increases the risk of a spill, as tar sands crude is more corrosive, and is transported under higher heat and pressure. Furthermore, when the spill inevitably happens, the dillbit will be more harmful, as it contains higher levels of toxic carcinogens.

Jobs or environment? Not a Choice
What makes the Line 9 debate problematic, especially from the standpoint of labour, is that one counter argument in fa- vour of line 9 is centred around job creation. This, then, runs the risk of returning to the old debate where workers were asked to chose between the environment and the economy. The problem here is that no matter which of the two is cho- sen, nobody wins. Either choice leads eventually to hardship and devastation.
This dichotomy however is entirely false for a number of reasons: First off, from an economic standpoint, switching to a green economy actually stands to create more jobs then the oil economy.
According to reports from the Canadian Blue Green Alliance, investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transit create six to eight times more jobs then the equivalent investment in fossil fuels. Looking just at government spending alone, the $1.3 billion that the Federal government invests in fossil fuels would create 18,000 to 20,000 new jobs if invested in renewable energy, compared to the 3,000 jobs the government currently claims it creates with it’s fossil fuel subsidies.

Investing in a green economy
Looking specifically at Enbridge and line 9, Mike Harris has suggested that the pipeline will generate about 3,250 person years of direct and indirect employment in Ontario over the next 30 years, another 1,969 in Quebec. That amounts to only 108 jobs in Ontario, and 66 in Quebec.
On the other hand, Enbridge itself has already invested $3 billion in renewable energy since 2001. Of course, this is only a tiny fraction of its total budget, but it does indicate a willingness to change under pressure. Instead of investing in unsafe Tar Sands projects, Enbridge could be pressured to invest in the green economy, thus generating six to eight times as many jobs.

Teamsters and Turtles Alliance
Clearly, rather than choosing between the economy and the environment, it appears that a shift to a green economy would be good for both sustainability and job creation, while the fossil fuel economy is unable to provide the jobs and prosperity that working people need. However, there is another, even deeper reason that labour must oppose line 9.
Back in the late 1990s, during the protests against the World Trade Organization for it’s anti-worker, anti-environment globalization agenda, tens of thousands of people from labour, and from community-based, environmentalist and anti-capitalist youth came out in opposition. Not only that, but during the first day of protest, thousands of rank and file union members disregarded a planned march route, and marched down to the convention centre where the WTO meeting was taking place. By supporting the protesters that were under attack from the police, workers forced the police to withdraw and WTO organizers had to
cancel their meeting, a victory! What made this victory possible however, is now referred to as the “Teamster–Turtle alliance.” Organized labour working with environmentalists, with community groups, anti-capitalist youth, etc. building strong rank and file networks and creating grass roots movements strong enough to tackle capital and the state.
teamstersandturtlestogetherstillOf course, we know that while street protests are important, struggles are ultimately won or lost in the workplace, and here too, the most successful actions have been won through broad rank and file networks and grass roots solidarity. The pressure that library workers were able to bring to bear on the Ford administration are an excellent example of that. Library workers could not have won without the support and solidarity they received from outside the union including even Margaret Atwood chipping in to support.

The Role of the Labour Movement
In the case of line 9, labour must keep showing that kind of solidarity. While it is certainly true that all working people are in danger when it comes to the threat of oil spills and climate change, those most immediately at risk are indigenous people who’s land these pipelines run through, rural people who rely on well water, and of course the parts of the world that are already being bombarded by deadly natural disasters caused by climate change. Environmentalism is especially popular among young people who are having an increasingly difficult time imagining a viable future for themselves. Organized labour must form strong alliances with all of these groups–alliances that are authentic and tight knit at the rank and file level. With union density down under 30% in Canada, and even lower in Ontario, these alliances are essential to remaining relevant and having the strength to push back against the ongoing attack on workers.
This is already happening. Labour is joining the environ- mental justice movement, and is increasingly active in the struggle against line 9. In October, hundreds of people rallied against line 9, many of them labour activists. Fur- thermore, union locals have submitted resolutions against the project here at the OFL convention. It is very important however that labour activists continue to fight line 9 and that we keep the Teamster-Turtle alliance growing!

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