First off, my apologies for the delay between blogs. I hadn’t realized the specifics of the differences between Canadian and American slander and defamation laws, and wanted to make sure I fully understood what I could and could not say in my posts. I’ve had several long and detailed conversations about it over the last couple of weeks, and I have a better handle on it now.
The last couple of weeks have been quite exciting. We’ve had lots of stuff going on besides the usual research work. The Canadian postal workers’ union has been engaging in a campaign of rotating strikes, meaning that rather than striking the whole system, the union would strike in a different city every day. Last week brought the strike to Toronto. There is a post office around the corner from the UNITE HERE! office, so we walked over to picket with them in support and solidarity. That is one of my favorite parts of the union movement. When one union goes on strike, you very frequently see members of seemingly unrelated unions picketing alongside the striking workers. That helps drive home the point of the union movement: solidarity between workers, no matter the industry or profession, and better working conditions for all. Driving this point home further, we were addressed by Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. Ryan is a tremendous speaker, and one of the real forces of nature in the labour world in Ontario.
Later in the week, we held an informational picket at a downtown Toronto hotel where the contract negotiation process has stalled of late. An informational picket, sometimes called a “walk-and-work,” is not a strike as the picketing occurs outside of the workers’ scheduled hours. They picket either before or after work, or on occasion during a break, in order to bring awareness of the contract fight to the public. This picket was every bit as loud, energetic, and exciting as a normal picket line would be. Chants and songs erupted from the crowd, a particular favorite of mine being “We want a contract, we want a contract, we want a contract, we want a contract now, we want it right now” sung to the tune of Kana’an’s “Waving Flag.” We were again joined by Sid Ryan, as well as workers from hotels all over the city, union staff, and community allies.
The news surrounding our movement these past few weeks has been bad. The Canadian government is about to legislate the postal workers back to work and hand pick an arbitrator to unilaterally declare which side’s proposal will become the new contract; with the Conservative Party government , it is quite likely that this arbitrator will rule in favor of the company, creating a system of tiered wages and benefits which will drive a wedge between older and younger workers. In the state of Wisconsin, the State Supreme Court upheld a law stripping public employees of their right to bargain collectively for better working conditions and retirement benefits. Pickets like those we have had here remind us that, while much of the world seems turned against working people and their right to safe working conditions and sufficient benefits when they retire, we still have allies and we still have a voice. As the chant we shouted last week says, “There ain’t no power like the power of the people, and the power of the people won’t stop!”