G8/20 People’s Summit Coordinator
Listen to the interview and full program here: 68-The_Shake_Up-20100317-1200-t1268823600
Basic Principles of Activities of the People’s Summit 2010
The 2010 G8/G20 Summits, set to take place in Ontario (June 25-27, 2010) presents Canadian civil society organizations and groups with an opportunity to strengthen our collective voice and lend cohesion to our efforts on the environment, poverty, human rights and social justice.
The actions and policies of the G8/G20 and their member-states have significant impact on millions of lives the world over, and with this, comes an opportunity for us – a diverse civil society, including community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, public, media and other groups – to work together to educate, empower and ignite positive change we would like to see in our world.
The following represent basic operating principles which will guide the work of the 2010 People’s Summit toward our objectives:
- To facilitate the participation of a broad spectrum of civil society and directly affected communities in a fair and democratic process.
- To conduct effective advocacy, education, awareness building and community organizing work through joint civil society proposals on global and local issues around the 2010 G8/G20 Summits.
- To facilitate proactive advocacy, education and awareness building activities when it is not possible to make joint proposals or reach agreement through discussion.
- To conduct its activities in a democratic** manner, while striving for consensus among all participants.
- To prioritize community building amongst organizations and directly affected communities, as well as achieving results through collective activities.
- To promote solidarity through peaceful activities.
- To respect a diversity of tactics, for which individual organizations will be responsible.
**What we mean by democracy is the full participation of a diversity of voices and a recognition of the importance of space for disagreement as a necessary part of a democratic process. Though we strive to reach consensus, we realize that differences of opinion can be harnessed in positive ways. A democratic process will give equal voice to participating groups and will seek to be aware of and upfront about issues of power.
The Great Economic Debate Canada Needs and Is Failing to Conduct: James Laxer
The global economy is undergoing a dramatic transformation, the greatest since the decline of the British Empire as the world’s leading economic power. At their peril, politically active Canadians are failing to analyze the transformation and its consequences for Canada.
With the political stage in the United States dominated by the sputtering Obama administration and the ever more extravagant behaviour of the Tea Party movement, insufficient attention is being paid to the underlying reality that the United States is in decline as an economic power. No matter how well or how badly the decline of the U.S. is managed—and this will matter—the shift to a new global economic order is underway.
Meanwhile in Canada, the Harper government, with little coherent opposition from the parties that hold the majority of seats in the House of Commons, is proceeding to tighten Canada’s economic ties with the United States. During the period of parliamentary prorogation, the Conservative government extended the right of U.S. firms to bid on provincial and municipal contracts in Canada in the most significant extension of NAFTA since the trade deal began in 1994. The step was taken by the Harper government to enable Canadian firms to bid on the tail end of contract offerings at the state level in the U.S. under Washington stimulus spending plan. (In an earlier post, I critiqued the Harper government’s initiative.)
Now the Harper government has signaled that it soon plans to open the door to a massive influx of foreign investment and foreign control in the areas of telecommunications and the mass media.
The Harper government’s strategy is to end stimulus spending, keep taxes low for the wealthy and for corporations and to seek the fuller integration of the Canadian and U.S. economies.
What are the Liberals and the NDP doing?
They criticize the Harper government initiatives by going after their peripheral details. What they have not done is to attack them at their very centre. They have not explained what needs to be explained—that the course Canada is now on will be catastrophic for the Canadian people in coming decades.
If you step back from the debates on Parliament Hill and take in the wider reality, it is overwhelmingly apparent that massive change is coming in the global economy.
Take for instance the recent attack on American economic policies by China’s Premier Wen Jiabao. Wen took sharp aim at Washington, saying that the U.S. is failing to rebuild its own economy and to maintain the value of the dollar. China, whose foreign reserves exceeded $2.4 trillion at the end of 2009, held nearly $900 billion of those reserves in dollar-denominated U.S. government Treasury Bills. What Beijing fears is that the U.S. is engaged in policies that will sharply reduce the value of the dollar and that this will not only slash the value of the Treasury Bills China holds, it will close off much of the U.S. market to Chinese exports.
Last year, Chinese officials speculated that the epoch in which the U.S. dollar serves as the world’s reserve currency is coming to an end.
The current warnings from the Chinese government could force up interest rates on U.S. Treasury Bills and that would worsen the already perilous fiscal crisis in which the U.S. government finds itself.
In my view, China’s relationship with the United States is bound to change with Chinese wages rising and the American ability to import on the same scale as in the past falling.
It’s part of the transition of the global economy that our politicians are failing to debate. A future generation of Canadians will be bound to ask what they Hell our leaders were doing. Their anger will more likely be directed at the centrists and left-wingers who should have known better, and did nothing, than at the ideological conservatives who insisted on going down with the U.S. Ship in which they believed so deeply.
Go to the blog site to read excerpt from Laxer’s latest book: Beyond the Bubble: Imagining a New Canadian Economy, published by Between the Lines Publishing in November.
DEMONSTRATION AGAINST WAR & INJUSTICE
MONEY FOR OUR CITY NOT WAR & BANK BAILOUTS!!!
MARCH 19, 2010
4:00 p.m. – Gather at the “Spirit of Detroit”, Woodward at Jefferson, Downtown
4:30 p.m. – Rally and Speakout Against War and For Jobs, Income, Housing, Healthcare and Education
5:00 p.m. – March thru Downtown to Central United Methodist Church, 23 E. Adams
5:30 p.m. – Light Refreshments at Church
6:00 p.m. – Roundtable Discussion on “How to End War and Win Social and Economic Justice”
This year marks the 7th anniversary of the U.S. military invasion and occupation of Iraq. During the course of the war 4,400 troops have been killed and over 42,000 wounded. Hundreds of thousands more have suffered lifelong injuries and disabilities.
In Afghanistan, since 2001, over 1,000 U.S. troops have been killed and thousands wounded. The Obama administration has announced the deployment of tens of thousands more troops to kill and maim the civilian population.
More tragically, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis have died as a result of the U.S. and NATO occupations. Millions more have been injured and displaced.
At the same time in the U.S., over 15 million have lost their jobs, homes, healthcare and access to quality education. The government has bailed out the banks, insurance companies and automotive firms to the tune of trillions of dollars. Just think how many jobs could have created with these funds. How many homes could have been saved? The 50 million people living without health insurance could have access to quality care. Hundreds of schools could have remained opened in Detroit and throughout the state of Michigan.
Join us in our efforts to build a powerful movement to end all imperialist wars and provide housing, jobs, income, healthcare and quality education to everyone in the U.S.
Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI)
Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions & Utility Shut-offs
Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST)
The Michigan Coalition for Human Rights Youth Board
The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality
Coalition to Restore Hope to DPS
For More Info: 313.671.3715/313. 887.6466
FIGHT FOR A PUBLIC JOBS PROGRAM
Detroit Town Hall Meeting
Speak Out for Jobs!
Saturday – March 27, 2010 – 1 PM
Central United Methodist Church
23 E. Adams, 2nd floor
At the height of the Great Depression of the 1930’s President Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (renamed later as the Work Projects Administration) on April 8th, 1935. It was funded by the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935. The WPA put over 8 million unemployed people to work directly and was the largest employer in the United States at that time.
Today, with tens of millions of workers – especially youth – unemployed, we need a real, public jobs program, NOW! We can’t wait for some imaginary future jobs from the banks and corporations who have already been bailed out with trillions of our tax dollars.
The government can and must open hiring halls in every neighborhood and get people back to work. In the 1930’s the Detroit WPA built Western High School and City Airport and upgraded the Detroit Zoo among many other projects. There is plenty that needs doing immediately in Detroit – repairing roads and bridges, cleaning parks, insulating and fixing up thousands of vacant homes so no one is homeless or without heat.
The Full Employment Act makes it the government’s duty to put everyone to work – it’s the law! Let’s organize and tell the politicians – A REAL, PUBLIC JOBS PROGRAM NOW!
Urban Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges
Local food production, organic farming, urban landscape innovation
Windsor, Ontario, Canada – March 10, 2010 – Landscape Architecture specialist
Karen Landman will present “Urban Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges” to the public at 7pm on Thursday March 18 at the University of Windsor.
Ms. Landman will address the opportunities and challenges of sustainable living
through urban food production while discussing urban agriculture, land
stewardship, food systems and urban ‘greening’ projects in other communities.
A professor in Landscape Architecture at the School of Environmental Design
& Rural Development, University of Guelph, she has a background in landscape
architecture, planning and development, and cultural geography. Landman has
had a design practice for over 20 years, specializing in planting design. In 2007, she was the recipient of the Ontario Agriculture College Distinguished Professor Award. Her current research interests include green infrastructure, urban agriculture, local food systems, urban to rural linkages, community landscape-stewardship planning, and especially the linkages between design and planning.
Thursday March 18th
School of Visual Arts, LeBel Building
University Of Windsor
(South West Corner of Huron Church Road and College Ave.)
All students and community members are encouraged to attend this event to gain
valuable insight into establishing Urban Agricultural Projects for our West Windsor community.
This event is hosted by University of Windsor, Green Corridor in support of
the Campus Community Garden Project.
!362 California Ave.!
Canada, N9B 2Y7
519.253.3000 ext 2849
Campus Community Garden Project fund-raiser event: Dinner and Presentation on Urban Community GardeningWe invited two people from Detroit to talk about their experiences with building a community garden in the city of Detroit (Georgia Street) for our first fund-raiser event on Friday, March 26 @ 6:30 pm. The Green Bean Café (2320 Wyandotte Street West, Windsor) is going to host this fund-raiser event, which means delicious food will be on our plates. A brief documentary from the Georgia Street Community Garden will also be shown and raffle prices will await you. The costs are $15 for students and $20 for non-students. More details will be send out through the CCGP listserv and facebook. Please contact me email@example.com or Nicole firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to purchase a ticket, have any questions, or would like to be on our email list. Take care and hope to see you soon,
to Vision Statement: U Win CCGP Vision Statement
to Working Groups: U Win CCGP Working Groups
to Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=358975379010
to Resource Sharing Wiki (from the Facebook Group): http://ccgp.pbworks.com
|Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 327
March 17, 2010
Where was the Labour Movement?
On March 5, 2010, after a conflict that stretched over almost 9 months, the maintenance and skilled trades workers of CEP (Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union of Canada) Local 2003 working in office towers in downtown Toronto voted to accept an offer from real estate developer Cadillac Fairview. The victory was bittersweet. On the one hand, the Cadillac Fairview workers had forced an arrogant corporation to return to the table and to do so with a substantially improved severance offer. On the other, the workers went through hell to get there and at the end of the day the jobs and the bargaining unit were lost.
Though the struggle of the workers was inspiring at many levels and could point to a partial victory, the same could not be said for the response of the broader labour movement. In this regard, the outcome was clearly negative. The movement had been tested and found wanting. When a corporation with a portfolio of $17-billion takes on a unit of 61 workers and arbitrarily sacks workers and gets rid of the union, it is the labour movement as a whole that is being challenged. Allowing this to happen without a serious pushback effectively exposes the labour movement as a paper tiger. It encourages corporations to be still more aggressive – if this is happening in unionized plants, it’s not hard to imagine what is happening in non-union workplaces and to much more vulnerable part-time and contract workers (a hint of this was evident in the recent lockout of SEIU – Service Employees International Union – workers at the Woodbine Racetrack).
Unless and until the movement collectively figures out how to reorganize itself to match what it is up against in these times, things are going to get a lot worse for working people. Before turning to what such an alternative response might involve, it’s useful to summarize some of the background to the Cadillac-CEP conflict.
Cadillac Fairview is “one of North America’s largest investors, owners and managers of commercial real estate.” This includes 84 properties, the most prominent of which are the Toronto-Dominion Centre and Toronto Eaton Centre, the Pacific Centre in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the Chinook Centre in Calgary and Fairview Ponte Claire in Montreal. Cadillac is fully owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP). The Plan’s fund includes monies contributed not just by the government as employer but also the teachers, yet its decisions are independent of any teacher or union control.
In May 2009, the company announced it would outsource or get rid of 20-30% of the workforce. It refused to increase severance payments for those whose jobs would be lost beyond the legally mandated minimum levels and – astoundingly even in this era of corporate extremism – it asked all the workers to give up their seniority and reapply for their jobs with six-month probationary periods. If subsequently dismissed, severance pay would be based on their new seniority, not the seniority they previously had. When the workers refused, the corporation waited until the agreement was over and on that day, June 14th, 2009, Cadillac Fairview locked out and replaced all the workers. A month later the company officially fired them. (On December 10, 2009 the corporation went so far as to use a Toronto by-law to force the workers to shut down their shelters outside the TD Centre).
The decisive factors to Cadillac’s bottom line are trends in real estate values and corporate occupancy; the labour costs of the workers who maintain Cadillac’s shopping malls and office buildings are marginal to its profitability. In the first stages of negotiating the latest agreement with Local 2003, worker concessions weren’t even raised. Then the financial crisis hit and Cadillac was under pressure to cut every corner possible. Because it could do very little about the larger economic issues or affect its relationships to other businesses, it looked to place the burden on its workers. That it expected little or no serious response from the labour movement as a whole left Cadillac Fairview more confident in this attack.
Cadillac Fairview’s turn to gutting worker’s rights wasn’t, in other words, about its survival or even about any significant impact on its profitability. It was about leaving more for its executives and stockholders. Ultimately, Cadillac Fairview acted as it did because it could.
In 1960, a group of workers separated from their international union and formed the Canadian Union of Operating Engineers and General Workers. That union was subsequently a founding member of a new national body, the Canadian Council of Unions in 1968. In 2003, they joined the Communication, Energy and Paper Union of Canada – itself the product of a merger between three unions that had broken away from their U.S.-based parent in the 1970s to move beyond the limits of American-style unionism.
CEP members walk the picket line, with supporters from UNITE-HERE.
In the thirty years before the last round of negotiations Local 2003 had many conflicts with their employer but no strikes. In this round of bargaining and especially as the implications of the financial crisis became more apparent, the local’s demands were extremely modest. The corporation was obviously not looking for a settlement but a chance to break the union and even before the lockout began, the union had filed a bad-faith bargaining charge against the corporation – a charge that the courts subsequently decided merited a labour board hearing. The local set aside any new demands and accepted the corporation’s decision to outsource work, concentrating its bargaining on getting decent severance packages for those losing their jobs. The local of course rejected transferring existing work to lower-wage categories and the outrageous corporate demand for everyone to give up seniority and ‘re-apply’ for their jobs.
While the union rejected the company agreement, it did not look to go on strike; it offered to keep working until a new agreement was reached. Cadillac Fairview wasn’t however interested. As for the union’s labour board complaint, the company’s lawyers were able to get this put off until April 2010 (another example of the thin justice the law offers workers and a contrast to the speed with which companies get injunctions and bankers get government attention).
Once on the street, the local ran 24-hour picket lines for six months and then continued picketing Monday-Friday through the rest of the strike. It organized some 15 solidarity rallies with folk and freedom singers including over 1000 supporters during the OFL Convention and a morning rush hour blockade. Knowing full well that the residents of the TD Centre in the heart of Bay Street were not going to respond sympathetically – the local organized a series of creative disruptions in the TD Centre – from launching huge banners and messages on helium balloons to parading through the crowds with giant grim reaper puppets and a daily barrage of air raid, ambulance, and police sirens. And with its limited resources, it spread its leafleting to other Cadillac properties.
On February 26, 2010 – more than eight months after the lockout began – the national union, CEP, informed the workers that the company had come around to a bargained end to the dispute and that an agreement (details withheld) had been reached which would be voted on the following week. What got Cadillac Fairview to the table was first, the stubborn determination of the workers to continue fighting and keep the issue alive. Second, it was pretty obvious that the now approaching labour board hearings would concur that Cadillac Fairview had blatantly disregarded the province’s labour laws. Though this was coming late in the day and a ruling restoring workers to their jobs seemed out of the question, the expected ruling and its publicity did put some pressure on the company to end the conflict.
That pressure was primarily manifested through the owner of Cadillac Fairview, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. The Pension Plan administrators had been increasingly criticized for their anti-social investments on a number of fronts (from water privatization in Chile to investments in the arms trade) and so it was sensitive to the additional negative attention it would receive as the hearings proceeded. Reliable sources suggest that the Pension Plan administrators basically told Cadillac Fairview to settle before the April hearings.
The ratification meeting was held on March 5, 2010. Though a minority of the workers remained angrily opposed, a clear majority voted to accept it. This was not surprising. By then almost half the workers had other jobs and were not interested in returning. Others simply didn’t want to work for Cadillac Fairview anymore and preferred to get a good severance package. Of those who did want the jobs again, few considered getting them back as being realistic at this stage. And the severance the corporation had been forced to offer was in fact quite significant: basically triple and in some cases more than four times the legislated minimums. The workers could therefore leave Cadillac Fairview with the dignity that comes with having taken on the fight, forced an insensitive corporation to retreat, and made – albeit qualified – gains.
The Labour Movement
The failures of the labour movement didn’t lie in any lack of sympathy for the Cadillac Fairview workers or unwillingness to demonstrate periodic support. The CEP continued to pay strike pay. The Teachers’ unions publically expressed their anger and frustration at the involvement of ‘their’ pension fund in attacking Local 2003. The OFL highlighted the strike at its convention and brought its delegates out to an impressive demonstration at the TD Centre. The Toronto and York Region Labour Council (TYRLC) – one of the most progressive in the country if not on the continent – tried to generate further solidarity. And a small number of individual union activists regularly came down to the TD Centre to join the picket line.
None of this, however, spoke to the imbalance in power confronting a particular group of workers, the changing context in which workers are struggling, or to the serious implications of such conflicts for all workers. The movement seemed to be going through the traditional gestures of solidarity, rather than moving to the kind of creative and radical collective actions that might actually represent a winning strategy.
There was, for example, no clear determination on the part of CEP (perhaps overwhelmed by massive job losses and demands for concessions elsewhere) to make this struggle into a province-wide crusade against Cadillac Fairview, especially at a moment in time – the financial and housing crisis – when financiers and large developers were so discredited. Nor was there any strategic determination on the part of labour that the weak link was the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the consequent need to raise the stakes by joining with others also fighting the narrow use of the Plan to maximize returns (including dealing with the need, at a minimum, for workers to be able to block their pension money being used to break unions).
There was no tactical consideration given to how to overcome the media’s disinterest in a struggle that was becoming invisible. This could only have been addressed with the kind of direct actions that the media couldn’t ignore and the local couldn’t pull off on its own – such as sit-ins backed by mass outside support, at the tenants of Cadillac Fairview that might be most sensitive to public opinion (like the TD Bank), or directly at the offices of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Though Cadillac Fairview could comfortably ride out the occasional protest, there was no plan for sustained and escalating tactics to get the message across that far from fading away, the conflict would be escalated and become increasingly prominent.
Toward Class-Based Struggles
The strike revealed not only the fragility of union rights in the province and the weakness of one local going it alone, but pointed to a broader strategic failure in the labour movement. The crisis we’ve been experiencing is not only about plant closures, concessions and attacks on public sector workers and social programs; it’s also about a crisis within the labour movement. The movement has been under attack for some three decades now and has emerged with lower expectations and a narrower sense of possibilities. That it was working people, rather than the economic elite, that is coming out of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008-10 on the defensive speaks volumes about the state of our movement. We have not come to grips with is that what we face isn’t just a series of specific problems confronting particular workers, but an assault on workers as a class and the corresponding need for a class response.
What might this mean? To begin with, this is not just a Canadian problem: it is one facing workers everywhere. It goes far beyond ‘bad leaders’ and gets to the most difficult and intimidating questions. Not only do we need to figure out how to defend ourselves in a new context but – because defence is not enough (those with power will eventually wear you down) – how we simultaneously organize ourselves to transform a society that has become a barrier to human solidarity and progress.
History puts this in some perspective. In the 1930s, workers came to the conclusion that the main form of unionism then, craft-based unionism (which only organized skilled workers), was inadequate to what they faced. They essentially invented a new organizational form that brought all workers in a sector together: industrial unionism (‘reinvented’ might be the better term since such unionism had earlier roots, but it was only in these years that industrial unionism came into its own). Industrial unionism, including its extension to the public sector, was always limited by the fact that, while it brought groups of workers together, it didn’t organize workers as a class. This didn’t prevent workers from making major gains, especially when economic growth could be taken for granted and the fight was over the distribution of that growth. But once growth slowed down and in response corporations and governments became more aggressive, the limits of this form of organization were exposed.
The labour movement did not, however, move on to new forms and this is what must now be placed on the agenda. Fragmented as we are, we’re sitting ducks. We need to develop new organizational forms that see workers as members of a larger class. Workers have interests that go far beyond their workplace – class is expressed in all aspects of our lives from the schools our children attend to the health care we receive to access to public transportation, to the environment. Moreover, those in the same boat as us are not just unionized workers but all those who don’t have capital to live off – non-union workers, the unemployed, new workers coming to Canada, the disabled and the poor.
It is not obvious what such new forms might be. But one such form – now being experimented with under the auspices of the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly – tries to bring workers together on a class-based, community-rooted basis. This means gathering activists from across unions and community campaigns with the hope of linking up to other such formations that might subsequently be built in other cities and communities.
This does not mean that unions are irrelevant: unions continue to have a vital role and in the context of broader organizations like the Assembly, the relevance of unions can even be greater. But that can only happen if unions are themselves transformed. This is not just a matter of replacing leaders and introducing more radical rhetoric. If unions are to act to build class power, then everything about them will have to be changed. Unions will have to re-examine their priorities, and strategies, how they conduct strikes and campaigns, the focus of their research departments and the content of internal education. They will also need to rethink the relationships of leaders to their members and the depth of internal democracy, as well as links to other unions and potential allies in the community. And it means expanding customary visions of social justice to naming what we are fighting against – capitalism.
Experience suggests that few union leaders are ready to take on the risks and responsibilities this entails. It also suggests that on their own and in the face of economic uncertainties, rank-and-file workers are unlikely to develop the confidence to force such internal changes. Such revolutions inside unions can only happen through worker activists drawing strength from the creation of networks across workplaces (and across unions) and with support outside the unions. Part of the work of the new class organizations raised above is to facilitate and support such networks.
Looking back to the struggle at Cadillac Fairview, Steve Craig – the Chief Steward of the unit – concluded that “people need to realize that we do have power. Corporations need to feel the heat and workers need to crank it up.” The Cadillac Fairview struggle showed that groups of workers will and can fight but also that this is not enough. We need a new kind of labour movement that can amplify Craig’s sentiments. If the left doesn’t develop new organizational forms and strategies, corporations and states will exhaust the best in the working class and unions will drift toward simply accommodating to what they face – getting the best deal in the circumstances without challenging the ‘circumstances’ – while workers adjust their private lives, out of necessity, to individual survival. The status quo is disappearing as a choice. We will either make the leap into new forms of class mobilization or find ourselves continuing to slide into ever more ineffective stances to defend the gains of a receding past. •
Sam Gindin is the Visiting Packer Chair in Social Justice at York University, Toronto.
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