On July 16th a migrant worker was killed while riding a bike in the Leamington area. It seems every few years such a tragedy occurs. Migrant workers have tough time because they are far from home and family and come here to work for minimum wage in decent to substandard living conditions while never really fitting in. However, they are not alone and to see how I spoke to Lorraine Gibson, Chairperson of the Migrant Worker Community Program, an organization that seeks “[t]o provide a more positive balance to the life of the migrant worker by offering opportunities to be involved in social, cultural, recreational and communication activities. Building cultural bridges with host communities offers workers and residents unique opportunities to share.”: this from the organization’s mission statement online.
We had a discussion about the plight and safety of migrant workers – a topic we’ve covered in the past. A few years ago, I volunteered with Lorraine at Frontier College in Leamington teaching English to migrant workers, and as well in 2008 I worked on a farm near Chatham with Frontier College working with migrant workers during the day and doing some English lessons in the evening. I can say the mostly Mexican workers I met and lived with are the most humble and hardworking people I’ve ever met as well as having immense pride in their culture and language.
Here, Gibson explains efforts to build bridges between the community and the migrant workers:
Non-profit organizations and non-mainstream enterprises like independent bookstores have real difficulties in maintaining upkeep on buildings and other expenses yet are crucial to a fully functioning, thriving and energetic democracy. As much as capitalists would like us to think otherwise, we cannot exist only on Wal-Marts and Costco. I know from my own experience at the Windsor Workers’ Action Centre and OPIRG, finding affordable and accessible space is a challenge – to understate the issue.
In Ottawa, social enterprises concerned with the common good have come together literally under one roof to share space and make space available to other individuals and organizations. Wondering if this is a model that could be followed in Windsor; I contacted Under One Roof in Ottawa to discuss what’s going on there, and I spoke with Olga Zuyderhoff who explained the concept:
I had a couple of issues lined up Friday that certainly point to the drift in the country toward increasing injustice and militarization. Ryan Herriot was in the studio with me and we talked about the mobilization of medical students and professionals to protest the Harper regime’s cuts to healthcare for refugees in Canada. Ryan Heriott is a third year medical student here at UWindsor. He helped organize a local rally at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office on Walker Road a few weeks ago as part of a national protest against healthcare cuts to refugees in Canada.
In this clip, Herriot describes changes to the Interim Federal Health Program and how medical professionals and students mobilized:
As with any protest and rally it’s what happens next that can be a challenge and here Herriot outlines further plans to keep the pressure on government ministers:
Related story of young man and former refugee kicked out of Conservative party BBQ where he tried to have Jason Kenny answer for cuts to healthcare for refugees is HERE
You can take action by clicking on image below and uploading a picture of your support:
From Ryan Herriot: Health care providers “… are encouraged to use this tool to document any adverse health outcomes of the cuts. The data is being collected at a national level and will be used to hold press conferences and call the media and public’s attention to these impacts. It will also likely be used in a research project to be written up and submitted to peer-reviewed publications (thereby logging it as evidence).”
Pensions are often in the news these days mostly as will you have one when you retire, or losing it before you do retire if you have one. They used to be considered sacrosanct so workers could retire in dignity. Increasingly, pensions are invested in the stock market and pension managers are charged with finding the highest returns. This is leading us down a slippery ethical slope because Canadian pensions are increasingly heavily invested in war industries. Here we’re talking about the CPP, QPP, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Public Sector Pension Investments and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System: the Big Five. It’s ethics vs. profits and with us was Richard Sanders, coordinator of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) and editor of the related journal Press for Conversion. In the journal, information is detailed about pension investments in Israeli war industries and Sanders also reported in the recent issue of The Monitor, a publication of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, on investments of Canadian pension plans in the global arms industry.
In this clip Sanders outlines the extent of pension investments in Israeli Apartheid and in the global arms industry:
Here Richard Feldman gives an overview of Detroit 2012 in the context of the de-industrialization of Detroit, materialism, militarization, and racism:
In the audio clip, Feldman talked about the battle for Detroit and who would own it: the people or corporations. Detroiters have their hands full fighting foreclosures from predatory banks, while as that struggle continues, Hantz Farms which Feldman singled out, is moving to buy up abandoned properties begging the question: are they the new carpetbaggers?
Rockin’ Robbee and a tribute to his compadre Robert Brown:
Conservative MP for Essex Jeff Watson a working class hero??
In a June 15thWindsor Star article, Chris Vander Doelen did a marvelous job of portraying Conservative MP for Essex Jeff Watson as a working class hero. In reality, Mr. Watson is a middle class sycophant to power and a traitor to his working class roots.
Mr. Watson’s very real struggles to ‘get ahead’ are repeated millions of times by working class people around the world. According to Vander Doelen, Watson plugged away at multiple jobs at minimum wage and finally made it to a unionized Chrysler Canada assembly line with a living wage. All the while he struggled to pay tuition for a degree in history and help raise a family while his wife also worked. Watson had his eyes on something other than an assembly line job for the long term. Like Watson, all workers’ desires are determined by complex social, political and economic forces. Workers are usually in the position of reacting to these forces with precious little opportunity to influence them proactively. For hundreds of years workers have struggled to extract wealth from the capitalist class at great peril requiring enormous sacrifice. Today we all still reap the dwindling social rewards of those struggles; however, the past thirty years or so have seen the dismantlement of the accommodation between capital and workers manifested in free trade deals after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A new global order emerged featuring the primacy of corporate personhood, and workers have not yet been able to effectively reorganize to confront and challenge it. The current economic regime places global ‘free’ trade and competition as the top priorities which in turn have devastated the manufacturing sector in Windsor and Detroit, and not because we lack the competitive drive – on the contrary; the work was simply taken away. What working people lacked was the political and economic power to confront the new global order which specifically excluded labour. Our slow transmutation from working class to middle class overshadowed the knowledge of our own history. We forgot the struggles but the capitalist class never has.
What workers did get out of the new global order was a snow job called the ‘knowledge economy”, a murky concept that generally translated into getting more education – a move that made sense on the surface in a time of massive down-sizing (which became “right-sizing” and could now be referred to as ‘capsizing’) since living wage work was disappearing. What has the knowledge economy produced? Mathematicians creating derivative trading and a global financial collapse, and an MP history major with no sense of history. In the meantime, Canada cannot produce enough skilled tradespersons who actually make things we need. Don’t misunderstand: more education is always a good thing; just not when it is sold by those who know that under their plan there will never be enough meaningful, well paid work to go around – there must always be a pool of surplus labour in a capitalist system.
That Mr. Watson could get a job at even $9 an hour was thanks to the efforts of thousands of workers who campaigned and agitated for an increase in the minimum wage. That Mr. Watson could find a unionized factory job with a living wage is because workers, through their union, fought for decades to gain a living wage and improve working conditions. But does Mr. Watson understand at all the context of these tumultuous times? Apparently not. When he made the admirable decision to enter politics, he chose or was recruited to run as a conservative under Stephen Harper, a leader who has made it abundantly clear he will dismantle every social, political and economic tool workers have to defend and improve our interests. Already, it appears too many working class people will never make it to a job with a living wage, never be able to raise a family because of that, and will remain stuck in low wage and precarious work with shamefully weak provincial labour laws.
On top of this, the stage is set for ugly social unrest as Watson’s boss has set into play a wage regime that will see migrant workers earn 15% less than Canadian workers, as all workers start to compete for ever scarcer jobs. Has Watson used his working class experience to speak out to his leader that if present trends continue all workers will suffer further and so also civil society? He has been silent. The Omnibus budget bill, itself a crime against the democratic process, will make it harder to retire, harder to collect Employment Insurance, harder to protect the environment, and harder to regulate corporations – in short harder to be a worker. Mr. Watson stood in the House of Commons, and while other MPs stood against the obvious injustice that was the “budget” bill, gladly did what his masters told him to do and voted against everything that got him to the House of Commons. Mr. Watson is more than an embarrassment. He is a sycophant to a regime bent on making Canada a hell hole for workers and a ‘free-for-all’ trade zone for corporations wanting to enrich themselves with Canadian resources: resources that belong not to them, but to the people of Canada, with a special emphasis on First Nations.
John Lennon sang that “… a working class hero is something to be” in a song that decried the slow and easy transition of workers into the illusion of the middle class. A working class hero Watson is not and rather than celebrate him, he should be roundly denounced for the class traitor that he is.