In 1981, Ronald Reagan took on and smashed PATCO, the Air Traffic Controllers.
The American labour movement expressed outrage but did nothing. This sealed the fate of American workers for over three decades. Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, has declared war on city-workers. He intends to smash unions. This is our PATCO moment.
The upcoming battle between Toronto city-workers and Rob Ford is a historic test for the Canadian labour movement. It will set the
precedent nationally. If we lose here, we’ll lose everywhere, and we’ll pay the price for years to come.
If we win here, we can begin to turn the tide, we can build a mass movement against austerity and union-busting.
Ford and his powerful allies are preparing for class war. We must ensure that they are not the only class fighting. CUPE Locals 416 and 79 cannot win this fight on their own. Ford is too determined, his backers too powerful, the stakes too high. Words will not be enough. We can’t just tell Canadian workers that our fight is their fight. We must demonstrate that Ford is not only up against 416 and 79, but CUPE as a whole. It is only this kind of leadership from CUPE that can bring the rest of the labour movement into this struggle.
Occupy Toronto pointed us in the right direction. We must occupy this city.
CUPE National should publicly move its war office to Toronto now to coordinate the working class as a whole against Ford’s war on workers. Rallies, marches, educationals, and campaigns, while necessary, are not enough.
Ford will not be swayed. We need direct action. Particular sections of CUPE could embark on rolling days of action that minimize damage to the public while putting pressure on Ford. We could engineer a slowdown in one sector, and remove services for half a day in another sector. We could hold a sick-in at one sector, and a teach-in with clients in another sector. This could coalesce into city-wide days of action. Only workers – union and non-union, public and private sector – acting as a class, can stop Ford.
CUPE workers, demand from your leaders a unified strategy for this struggle.
Workers everywhere, pledge your support to city-workers and mobilize your co-workers to participate in direct actions. The fate of city-workers is the fate of us all.
Ford will continue the general trend of locking-out workers and forcing them back to work as befits the interest of capital. We know what they’re going to do. What are we going to do?
Solidarity. Resistance. Change.