Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (predecessor to the NDP), who said it best: “What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all.”
Fighting Austerity with Activism
Activism can take many forms. At its most visible, activism might include attending a rally or a picket line to show support for another union local that is on strike or lockout (again, it’s difficult to overstate just how powerful and meaningful this one symbolic act can be) or for a cause that has direct connections to workers and their lives. A few recent examples of this type of action include:
- The OFL rally for decent work that took place in Toronto on Saturday, October 1st. ETFO members joined other unions, community and student groups to call for safe working conditions, fair hours, access to a union, paid sick days and vacation, $15 minimum wage and an end to the gender/racialized wage gap;
- The work done during 2014-2015 in support of Crown workers, members of USW 9176, which included both picket line rallies and leafleting of Beer Store locations to help spread the Steelworkers’ message;
- The Stand Up for Steel rally in Hamilton on January 30, 2016 that was successful in bringing attention to the situation being faced by USW Locals 1005 and 8782, whose retirees (former employees of Stelco/US Steel) are being refused benefits by the company after having paid into the fund for their entire working lives;
- The rallies in support of $15 and Fairness that took place on April 4, 2016 in cities across the province to bring attention to the need for a $15 per hour minimum wage and fairness in employment standards;
- The rally at the Mexican Consulate in Toronto on July 4, 2016 in support of Mexican teachers and families who are fighting back against the government’s proposed reforms to the education system in their country and whose activism has been met with military repression resulting in the deaths of several teachers; and
- The picket line support to striking Mississauga Library workers, members of CUPE Local 1989, over the course of their strike in July 2016.
Attending rallies and pickets is important work that ETFO members across the province have the power and organization to engage in. Our presence at these public displays of support is appreciated, and remembered.
In addition to rallies and pickets, however, ETFO members are engaged in other forms of activism every single day in their communities, through their local labour councils, messages of support on social media, letters to the editors of the province’s various media outlets, and letters to elected officials at all levels of government to advocate on behalf of various organizations and causes. Members can easily get involved in their area by contacting their local’s representative responsible for political action or social justice issues, or by reaching out to their area labour council (an alphabetical list can be found on the OFL’s website). In addition, the ETFO Advocacy and Action webpage contains a wealth of information on issues that are being targeted at the provincial level.
If every one of ETFO’s 78,000 members across the province were to engage in some small form of activism on a regular basis we could turn the tide away from austerity and towards a society that doesn’t just work for some, but holds promise for everyone. So grab a sign, a flag, a phone or a pen. Attend the next rally, a community meeting or reach out to a local labour council. Get involved.
Felipe Pareja is a Core French teacher in Mississauga and a member of the Peel Teacher Local. He chairs his local’s Political Action Committee.