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Worker Solidarity, the Toronto City Workers Strike, and Words to Remember July 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in A: Roger's Original Essays, About Workers, Labor.
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Every once in a while (not often enough) a statement is made that is so succinct and to the point that it merits being carved in stone.

First some background.  Locals 79 (inside workers) and 461 (outside workers) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (C.U.P.E.), which represents nearly 25,000 municipal workers at the City of Toronto, are on strike.  The City has provoked the strike by offering substantially lower cost of living increases than have been approved recently for other civic workers (fire, police, library, etc.) and by demanding concessions of previously gained benefits.  The City and the uncritical media have made much of a benefit gained many contracts ago whereby workers can bank unused sick leave and collect a lump sum on retirement (a benefit for which the workers would have made concessions in other areas to achieve).

Since the City workers collect garbage, run day care centers, approve permits and licences, etc., the strike has had an impact on the daily lives of most residents and is generally held to be unpopular.  Interestingly, it is both the City (mainly its Mayor, David Miller) and the Union that are being held responsible by many.  But the workers have taken the brunt of the hostility.

The recently elected President of C.U.P.E. Local 416, Mark Ferguson, a veteran paramedic and student of Eastern religion, has received mountains of e-mails ranging from critical to outright hateful (along with some supportive ones).  In response to one of the critics, he wrote the following memorable lines (which are so important that I will put them bold in caps):

YOUR SENSE OF CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE SERIOUSLY FLAWED.  PERHAPS YOU MIGHT REDIRECT YOUR ANGER TOWARDS THE BANKS, FINANCIERS AND WALL STREET RATHERTHAN CANNIBALIZING GAINS MADE BY OTHER WORKING PEOPLE.  REFRAME YOUR QUESTION FROM “I DON’T HAVE IT SO THEY SHOULDN’T EITHER,” TO “THEY HAVE IT — WHY DONT I?”  IT’S NOT A RACE TO THE BOTTOM, SIR.

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