Labour Daze

September 3, 2012 at 2:26 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Probably the last Labour Day event I went to in Toronto was 2001. Maybe.

I had been to an IWW General Assembly in Boston a few weeks earlier, and was handing out some or other piece of IWW literature. I joined the IWW at the urging of my friend Ed of The Bad Days Will End.  A week or so later came the World Trade Center bombings, Ed disappeared and I lost interest in the Toronto branch (actually so did the other members – there is a new branch, but I don’t have any contact with it)

But I used to go every year when I was a Trotskyist. In fact all of the Trotskyist left, (IS, TL, BT, Usec, NSG, etc) made a big deal of selling there. Not sure we ever sold too many copies, and there were always plenty of copies of the leftist littering University Avenue as the march left to make its way to the final day of the Canadian National Exhibition (free entry if you were on the march!)

The march represented that layer of politicized union members who were probably also the NDP foot soldiers in any campaign. An average size march was between 10 and 25,000 depending on what was happening in the outside world. The years when Mike Harris was premier obviously pushed the numbers up, but after the Conservatives replacement with the “labour friendly” Liberals numbers began to drop again.

This year should be up.

In advance of a couple of by-elections this month, the Liberals have decided to re-invent themselves as financial conservatives. They are in the process of passing a wage freeze (and strike ban) on teachers for two years (with possibility of extension), and eying other public servants for the same treatment.

It’s mildly comical though to watch the unions in their role, but also trying  to mouth words of class struggle. At a rally last Tuesday in Toronto, education unions gathered at the front of Queen’s Park to protest government legislation. The tough talk would have been more plausible if the secondary teachers unions OSSTF hadn’t already agreed to the wage freeze and called off its strike votes. But then, the unions aren’t really about class struggle, are they?

Labour Day has been celebrated in Canada since the 1880s,  and actually predates the US adoption.  However, it’s more closely associated as the last weekend of summer. A time to close up the cottage, have a final picnic, fireworks and get the kids ready for the start of school the following day.

Hard times coming round again.

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September Cold and Grumpy

August 25, 2012 at 7:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

With September just a few day in sight, it seems fair to ask why to people seem to get in that protest mood this time of year? Is it that summer’s over and we’re beginning that long stretch to Thanksgiving  (or more substantially Christmas) or maybe, it’s just the days getting shorter and the weather cooler.

In any event, the season starts in Ontario on Tuesday when three of the province’s education unions (CUPE, OSSTF and ETFO) have called a protest rally to, well, protest some rather odious legislation about to be passed by the provincial Liberal government.

Essentially, the Liberals have recently made the discovery that it is overly generous social programmes that are responsible for the deficit and that it is social programmes that will have to pay for it. The liberals proposed to the unions they take a two-year wage freeze (to which the unions agreed) as well as further cutbacks (to which they did not). The position of the government has been then, take this deal or we’ll pass a law imposing it. Hmm. Oh and no strikes either. We’re putting that in the law as well.

I’m quietly expecting the unions somehow find a way to make this wholly unpleasant act palatable to their members. But maybe I’m a cynic.

In any event, the rally is at Queen’s Park in Toronto at noon on August 29.



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