Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ontario Ginger Project Organizes

An organized left within the Ontario NDP is working to develop a comprehensive left platform for the parrty. Their blog states:

In late 2008, The Ginger Project was founded with the intention of promoting the Democratic Socialist electoral platform that the NDP lacked during the ONDP leadership campaign. (The NDP, alone among all Western Socialist and Social Democratic parties, refuses to adopt and publish a comprehensive, evolving platform that exists both during and between elections).
We continue to wish to stimulate discussions relating to issues of both socialist democracy as well as public policy. This will help us to promote a more leftist agenda for our Province.

Follow their blog here.

Ginger Group in history (Wikipedia)

The Ginger Group was not a formal political party in Canada, but a faction of radical Progressive and Labour Members of Parliament who advocated socialism. The group is said to have taken its name from Ginger Goodwin, a United Mine Workers organizer. Ginger was shot dead outside Cumberland, British Columbia by company hired private policemen on July 27, 1918. His murder sparked Canada's first general strike. The term ginger group also refers to small group with new, radical ideas trying to act as a catalyst within a larger body.

The Ginger Group split with the Progressive Party in 1924 when Progressive leader Robert Forke proved too eager to accommodate the Liberal government of William Lyon Mackenzie King and agreed to support the government's budget with only minimal concessions. J. S. Woodsworth, using his right as the leader of the Independent Labour MPs, moved a stronger amendment to the budget based on demands the Progressives had made in earlier years but had since abandoned.

The Progressive and Labour MPs who broke with their Progressive colleagues to support Woodsworth became the "Ginger Group" and was made up of United Farmers of Alberta MPs George Gibson Coote, Robert Gardiner, Edward Joseph Garland, Donald MacBeth Kennedy and Henry Elvins Spencer as well as United Farmers of Ontario MP Agnes Macphail. The group was later joined by Labour MPs J.S. Woodsworth, William Irvine, Abraham Albert Heaps and Angus MacInnis, independent MP Joseph Tweed Shaw and Progressive MPs Milton Neil Campbell, William John Ward W.C. Good and Preston Elliott.

Members of the Ginger Group played a role in forming the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in 1932, with Woodsworth becoming the new party's leader.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ACTION ALERT: Tell Premier Brad Wall the New West Partnership is a bad deal

As reported in the Regina Leader-Post on April 28, governments of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia are set to sign off on the New West Partnership by the end of the week. This interprovincial trade agreement is nothing but TILMA (the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement) with a new name and all the same negative consequences for Saskatchewan.

Following broad public consultations on TILMA in 2007, the Saskatchewan government decided not to enter into the agreement with Alberta and BC. At that time – and on numerous occasions since – Premier Brad Wall and other members of the Saskatchewan Party promised not to sign TILMA, and pledged to consult with stakeholders and the public before signing any such an agreement. Despite those promises, it appears that the Premier is about to sign an agreement that nobody has seen and about which there has been no public consultation.

On April 22 the Council of Canadians and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, along with over 30 groups and individuals who participated in the 2007 TILMA review, sent an open letter to Premier Brad Wall calling on him to keep his promise to not sign TILMA and to undergo a legislative review and hold full and transparent public hearings on the issue before signing any interprovincial trade agreement. Our media release stated, “Saskatchewan was right to reject TILMA then, and it should reject a rebranded TILMA now … Nothing has suddenly changed to make lowest-common-denominator regulations and standards good for Saskatchewan. Nothing has suddenly changed to make giving corporations the right to sue elected governments for millions of dollars for ‘impeding trade’ – decided on by unaccountable dispute panels – suddenly a good idea for Saskatchewan.”

TAKE ACTION – Tell Premier Brad Wall the New West Partnership is a bad deal

Take action by sending Premier Brad Wall and Deputy Premier Ken Krawetz a message now! (Click here)

On the Side of the People

Jim Warren and Kathleen Carlisle, On the Side of the People: A History of Labour in Saskatchewan (Regina: Coteau Books 2005)

Alvin Finkle
Athabasca University
Labour/Le Travail

COMPREHENSIVE HISTORIES of working people in Canadian provinces are few and far between. This is certainly one of the best, and deservedly won the Saskatchewan Book Award in 2006 for the best scholarly book that year. Researched and written by trade union activists, with funds donated from both unions and progressive individuals, On the Side of the People focuses on the evolution of the province's trade union movement and on union struggles. The book is based on interviews with trade union leaders, extensive archival materials, the labour press, and secondary works. It succeeds very well in demonstrating continuities and changes affecting the labour movement in Saskatchewan throughout the period of non-Aboriginal settlement in the province and in linking provincial labour, political, and social history. But its analyses are limited by a populist approach which, while progressive, downplays debates within the union movement about political and industrial strategies, and ignores discussions about changes in the composition of the labour movement over time and its impact on possible class strategies. 

The book begins with a chapter on the fur-trading period which the authors acknowledge is mostly based on the work of the excellent Saskatchewan labour historian and trade union activist Glen Makahonuk, who died in 1997 at age 46 of a brain tumour. Makahonuk's work is reflected in other chapters as well and one cannot help but think that had he lived a little longer that he would have been one of the authors of On the Side of the People. This chapter reflects both the strengths and the weaknesses of this book's approach. On the one hand, it details every known strike of fur trade employees in the area that later became the province of Saskatchewan, and denounces the Hudson's Bay Company as an exploiter of workers. There is a short, but reasonable analysis of the Hudson's Bay Company's strategy for organizing its labour force, as well as its labour relations strategies. What is missing is any notion that there is a debate among scholars about the relative success of the Company in dominating its labour force, for example, in debates between geographer Frank Tough, who sees the paucity of documented strikes as evidence of largely uncontested bourgeois power, and historian Edith Burley, who argues the opposite. This is populist history in which every strike is a people's victory and there is no need to assess the overall balance of social forces.
Excellent chapters follow on the workers who built the cpr and their labour struggles, and then the boom years, followed by a bust, from 1892 to 1914 when Saskatchewan became a major destination for immigrants and a trade union movement, mostly craft-based, expanded quickly. The various political options that unionists chose are discussed but keeping with a general strategy in this book to emphasize labour unity over labour internecine warfare, there is no suggestion of any clashes among those who supported rival ideologies of labourism, socialism, and syndicalism.

The chapter on the early post-war period could hardly escape a discussion of rivalries among movements with very different senses of what the objectives of the working class should be and how to reach them. But it is an anemic discussion. "OBU ideas and Russia's Bolshevik revolution were threatening enough to provoke government repression, and what had looked like a powerful new strategy to meet labour's needs no longer seemed so promising." (71) Nonetheless, the book provides an even-handed account of the obu's efforts to organize coal miners in the province, and gives a sympathetic biography of P.M. Christophers, the obu mine organizer from Alberta who made a valiant effort to organize the miners but was ultimately defeated by the murderous violence of the employers abetted by the Saskatchewan provincial police.

The chapter on the Great Depression gives pride of place to leading Communists both from Saskatchewan and from outside the province who led the major strikes of the decade, and organized the unemployed. The authors rightly note that the popularity of many of these leaders had little to do with ideology and much to do with the respect workers had for their militancy. But the conservative craft unions are simply not discussed in this chapter, creating a false sense of a unified labour movement during the 1930s inspired by radical ideas. Warren and Carlisle do provide evidence that labour radicalism was widespread during this period and that it had an impact on electoral politics, with labour carrying every seat in a Regina council election, and labour playing a key role in the fledgling CCF. One would appreciate however a bit of analysis about how important labour was to the early CCF in Saskatchewan. Was that party indeed labour-friendly in opposition and later in government as some analysts suggest? Or was it a petit-bourgeois party of farmers and small businesspeople, not especially different in most of its policies than Alberta Social Credit, as sociologist John Conway has argued?

Warren and Carlisle are more forthright about the split between craft unionists and industrial unionists that initially led to the break-up of the American Federation of Labor and later the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada than they are about earlier splits in the labour movement. They outline the efforts of the Congress of Canadian Labour to organize workers in the province. They also demonstrate the assistance that the labour movement received in its efforts to increase membership when the CCF government was elected in 1944 and, influenced by David Lewis and other Ontario-based CCF officials, passed progressive trade union legislation that led, among other things, to early unionization relative to other provinces of most provincial government employees. Though the province's labour force was growing at a slower rate than the national average, its rate of unionization increased at almost double the national average between 1946 and 1955. But the authors demonstrate that the CCF government was often an employer like many others, unwilling to bend to workers' demands and certainly unwilling to involve workers or their unions in company management. Union militancy was often necessary to bring the CCF government to heel in dealings with its employees.
Though the authors' evidence suggests that the CCF government's attitude to workers became less friendly over time, they also make it clear that the unions continued to support the CCF and later the NDP. In part, this was because the unions supported the social agenda of the government, particularly its pioneering efforts in the areas of first hospital insurance and then medicare. But the more important reason was that the other government, on offer, the Liberal Party from the 1940s to mid-1970s, then the Conservatives until the mid-1990s, and now the Saskatchewan Party, has always represented the most anti-union elements of the business and farm communities. As the book makes clear, the lot of workers and the strength of unions suffered during the premierships of Ross Thatcher from 1964 to 1971 and Grant Devine from 1982 to 1991. Over time, in any case, a small number of leading members of the labour movement came to play significant roles in NDP governments and to insure that labour was onside with the NDP at election time even though between elections, large sections of the labour movement were contemptuous of NDP governments that appeared to cowtow to business demands at labour's expense.

Labour's infatuation with the NDP ebbed in the 1990s because Premier Roy Romanow and his Finance Minister, Janice MacKinnon, followed neo-liberal policies that meant job cuts and service cuts for working people in Saskatchewan. Warren and Carlisle outline a series of mainly public worker strikes and emphasize the unwillingness of workers to accept their NDP government's new anti-Keynesian, unabashedly pro-capitalist policies. But there is little discussion of what, if any, attempts were made to either establish a political alternative to the NDP or to force that party to accept more progressive policies. 

At the end of the book, the authors opine: "...despite organizational or philosophical differences, union people from the right and the left have a fundamental bond in common. They are all on the side of the people." (287) These are fine sentiments and a book that underplays the conflicts of the various elements of left and right in the trade union movement in favour of an approach in which workers are always united against their bosses makes these sentiments seem valid. But the weakness of this otherwise thorough and ambitious book is that it only rarely recognizes that competing groups "on the side of the people" have not historically at all times felt that they should work together or indeed that they should not be at war with each other. Of course, striking a balance between stories of inter-class warfare and intra-class warfare is always necessary in labour history. But I think the book that will likely remain Saskatchewan's chief account of workers' history for many years to come has underplayed the role of the latter in defining the labour movement at various times.

Greece: Driven into Crisis

By Ingo Schmidt
Socialist Project Bullet

Neoliberal order reigns in the world. Stock markets are recovering from the crash in the fall of 2008. Private banks are no longer weighed down by bad loans that were added to public deficits. The latter were rising anyways because the economic crisis had sent tax revenues on a downward slide. Add further bailout money for financial companies and fiscal stimulus and you get a veritable fiscal crisis of the state.

Meanwhile, rating agencies like Moody's and Standard and Poor's cast judgement on the viability of fiscal deficits and public sector cuts, as if their assessments of the financial sector had nothing to do with the ‘manias, panics, and crashes’ that pushed a cyclical recession near depression in the first place. Public deficits between 12% and 13% of GDP in Britain and the U.S. are bad, they say, but not so bad that the austerity measures they consider appropriate can't be left to Number 10 Downing Street and the White House.

In the European periphery, however, things are, according to the master evaluators of the world, quite different. Lumped together as PIGS, short for Portugal, Ireland Greece and Spain (or PIIGS, in adding Italy), these countries are charged with notorious wasteful spending and an inability to reign in deficits. Therefore, deficits in these countries, while not exceeding the British-American 12-13% range, are a threat to private investments in government bonds and loans.

Read the rest of this article here.

Video scenes from general strike below.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What you need to know about May Day

by Leo Panitch

For more than 100 years, May Day has symbolized the common struggles of workers around the globe.

Why is it largely ignored in North America? The answer lies in part in American labour’s long repression of its own radical past, out of which international May Day was actually born a century ago.

The seeds were sown in the campaign for the eight-hour work day. On May 1, 1886, hundreds of thousands of North American workers mobilized to strike. In Chicago, the demonstration spilled over into support for workers at a major farm-implements factory who‘d been locked out for union activities. On May 3, during a pitched battle between picketers and scabs, police shot two workers. At a protest rally in Haymarket Square the next day, a bomb was tossed into the police ranks and police directed their fire indiscriminately at the crowd. Eight anarchist leaders were arrested, tried and sentenced to death (three were later pardoned).

These events triggered international protests, and in 1889, the first congress of the new socialist parties associated with the Second International (the successor to the First International organized by Karl Marx in the 1860s) called on workers everywhere to join in an annual one-day strike on May 1 — not so much to demand specific reforms as an annual demonstration of labour solidarity and working-class power. May Day was both a product of, and an element in, the rapid growth of new mass working-class parties of Europe — which soon forced official recognition by employers and governments of this “workers‘ holiday.”

But the American Federation of Labor, chastened by the “red scare” that followed the Haymarket events, went along with those who opposed May Day observances. Instead, in 1894, the AFL embraced president Grover Cleveland‘s decree that the first Monday of September would be the annual Labor Day. The Canadian government of Sir Robert Thompson enacted identical Labour Day legislation a month later.

Ever since, May Day and Labour Day have represented in North America the two faces of working-class political tradition, one symbolizing its revolutionary potential, the other its long search for reform and respectability. With the support of the state and business, the latter has predominated — but the more radical tradition has never been entirely suppressed.

This radical May Day tradition is nowhere better captured than in Bryan Palmer’s monumental book, Cultures of Darkness: Night Travels in the Histories of Transgression [From Medieval to Modern] (Monthly Review Press, 2000). Palmer, one of Canada’s foremost Marxist labour historians, has done more than anyone to recover and analyze the cultures of resistance that working people developed in practising class struggle from below. He’s strongly critical of labour-movement leaders who’ve appealed to those elements of working-class culture that crave ersatz bourgeois respectability.

Set amid chapters on peasants and witches in late feudalism, on pirates and slaves during the rise of mercantile imperialism, on fraternal lodge members and anarchists in the new cities of industrial capitalism, on lesbians, homosexuals and communists under fascism, and on the mafia, youth gangs and race riots, jazz, beats and bohemians in modern U.S. capitalism, are two chapters that brilliantly tell the story of May Day. One locates Haymarket in the context of the Victorian bourgeoisie’s fears of what they called the “dangerous classes.” This account confirms the central role of the “anarchocommunist movement in Chicago [which] was blessed with talented leaders, dedicated ranks and the most active left-wing press in the country. The dangerous classes were becoming truly dangerous.”

The other chapter, a survey of “Festivals of Revolution,” locates “the celebratory May Day, a festive seizure of working-class initiative that encompassed demands for shorter hours, improvement in conditions, and socialist agitation and organization” against the backdrop of the traditional spring calendar of class confrontation.

Over the past century communist revolutions were made in the name of the working class, and social democratic parties were often elected into government. In their different ways, both turned May Day to the purposes of the state. Before the 20th century was out the communist regimes imploded in internal contradictions between authoritarianism and the democratic purpose of socialism, while most social democratic ones, trapped in the internal contradictions between the welfare state and increasingly powerful capital markets, accommodated to neoliberalism and become openly disdainful of “old labour.”

As for the United States, the tragic legacy of the repression of its radical labour past is an increasingly de-unionized working class mobilized by fundamentalist Christian churches. Canada, with its NDP and 30-per-cent unionized labour force, looks good by comparison. Working classes have suffered defeat after defeat in this era of capitalist globalization. But they’re also in the process of being transformed: The decimated industrial proletariat of the global North is being replaced by a bigger industrial proletariat in the global South. In both regions, a new working class is still being formed in the new service and communication sectors spawned by global capitalism (where the eight-hour day is often unknown). Union movements and workers’ parties from Poland to Korea to South Africa to Brazil have been spawned in the past 20 years.

Two more books out of Monthly Review Press — Ursula Huw’s The Making of a Cybertariat (2003) and the late Daniel Singer’s Whose Millennium? Theirs or Ours? (1999) — don’t deal with May Day per se, but capture particularly well this global economic and political transformation. They tell much that is sober yet inspiring about why May I still symbolizes the struggle for a future beyond capitalism rather than just a homage to the struggles of the past.

Leo Panitch, Canada Research Chair in comparative political economy at York University, is co-editor of The Socialist Register and author of Renewing Socialist Democracy, Strategy and Imagination.

April 28 Day of Mourning Mural

A Phoenix Arises from the Mines of Saskatchewan
By Doug Taylor

Crystal Howie is committed to making public art; art that is available and approachable to all. So she created her latest mural in the depths of the Esterhazy potash mines.

Her first major work was very public. Commissioned by the Saskatchewan Centennial Workers Celebration Committee to celebrate the contributions of Labour to the building of Saskatchewan, Crystal’s “Workers Mural” is a colourful 30’ by 10’ work that resides on the front of the Union Centre in downtown Regina. It is public, accessible and earns the pride of Regina’s labour movement. So how did her latest work end up in the mines?

Working Down Under
Raised in Churchbridge near Esterhazy, Crystal worked four summers in these mines while putting herself through school at the University of Regina.

"Working underground gave me a chance to broaden my imagination." she says. "There really is not much underground, at first glance. But after I had spent some time working there, and you could say living there, I began to see the beauty and immensity of my experience. Maybe this experience is universal for miners. I'm not sure. But the idea of where you are and how it changes you forever. The way you look at work, life, surface, and anything that is beneath your feet, is absolutely amazing," says Howie. "To this day I look at the ground beneath my feet as something so strange. There will now always be this possibility that something, someone, is walking around beneath my feet," she adds.

Upon graduating in 2003, Crystal was determined to use her skills and knowledge to give back to the working class community she came from.

Digging things up
It wasn’t easy to get a project connected with the mines and community up and running. The first obstacle was money; the second was buy-in from Mosaic Saskatchewan. A grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board for a one year artist-in-residency in Esterhazy got her past the first and working with local mine management achieved the second.

Chandra Pratt, human resources manager at the Mosaic mine in Esterhazy, told the Moosomin World Spectator “Not being an artist myself and not ever thinking we would employ an artist, or have an artist working on our site, she had intrigued me and I asked more questions on what it would look like and what would be the expectation from Mosaic to make the process work.”

Engaging the workers themselves was also without complications.

Howie said the miners received her with mixed reactions. “Each individual has their own set of mixed understandings of what an artist is, or could be, or should be,” she said. “Those are challenges for me as an artist, but they’re also just the way a person is.”

Crystal worked with a key group of interested workers in the spring of 2008 and let the process develop. With no pre-conceived ideas, the main theme unfolded as a mural dedicated to Canada’s National Day of Mourning.

Day of Mourning
The National Day of Mourning is observed on 28 April and commemorates workers who have been killed, injured or suffered illness due to workplace related hazards and incidents. The National Day of Mourning was first declared in 1984 by the Canadian Labour Congress. April 28 was picked because on that day in 1914, the Workers Compensation Act received its third reading. In December of 1990, this day became a national observance with the passing of the Workers Mourning Day Act. Larry Hubich, President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, stated “Last year, a worker died every two weeks in our province. Saskatchewan has the second worst injury rate in the country.”

Crystal Howie’s mural is a complex intertwining of symbols and images that try to capture the nature and spirit of her mining community.

A phoenix and a rose
As you first approach the mural, a rising phoenix in the centre grabs your attention. The phoenix has historically represented renewal and rejuvenation. It is a symbol of hope.

Just above is a rose, drawn from the slogan of the woman’s movement “We fight for bread but we fight for roses too.” Working lives are not just about wages but about the quality of our families and communities.

Work and safety
On the left panel is a male worker, clad in personal protective equipment, combating the fire

from the mural centre with a shovel. With his other hand, he reaches to rescue the houses central to the mural.

The houses represent the many aspects of peoples’ lives, community and pursuits.

Water and potash
The left segment is dedicated to water, an element essential to life and work. Water serves to nourish us all but for mine workers means protection as well. A great deal of worker safety training is dedicated to fire as the fire extinguisher demonstrates. Herein lies the strength of the tradesperson, clad in helmet, work gloves and torch, identified as a First Nations person from the eagle’s feather.

The female worker at the right side of the mural is also a brave mother. She holds her baby tightly to herself and a hand watches over her, giving her courage to face water and fire.

Together these images weave a story rooted in work, family and community. Danger and death are balanced with safety and life.

Working with the community
While engaging with her partners in the mine for the first half of her residency, Crystal also worked with the community to establish art appreciation seminars and art programming for other artists in the Esterhazy region. “Those things are important to me, but they’re also important to other artists because they need to know their rights as workers, and they need to know what it is they’re up against,” Howie said. “They need to have support systems and networks to be able to communicate, so professional issues for artists is one of the things that I was able to see that the community wanted and I was able to provide that.”

By building these activities into her work, Crystal ensured that her mural would have a reflection above ground.

Art arises from a mine
Unveiled in April 2009, the National Day of Mourning: Safety for Workers, Their Families and the Community, is a celebration of the workers.

“The message is that workers are people who are living a reality,” she said. “They have hopes and dreams. They are creative beings. They have strength, courage, and the ability to do what is necessary in their lives and the lives of others.”

Crystal has returned to the University of Regina to work on her Masters degree. She takes a little more of the mines with her.

Also see the Regina Workers Mural by Crystal Howie.
Mine safety concerns raised at Sask. legislature
SFL News release: Day of Mourning

Experimental film documents Aboriginal workers in Canada

by Aisling Chin-Yee
Art Threat

For week 5 of the NFB’s Work For All campaign, we’re going to hand the mic over to WFA’s Aisling Chin-Yee, who will set up this week’s film.

As I am is a short experimental documentary about Aboriginal presence in the workplace. This film is unconventional in that it consists only of still photographs, and a poem (by Mohawk poet Janet Marie Rogers). We had the good fortune to meet all the participants in the film, in both Kahnawake and Ottawa, and everyone had a great story to tell about their profession and their communities.

Director Nadia Myre wanted to profile many different workplaces and highlight the pride that Aboriginal individuals take in both their cultural identity and their professional identity. She also wanted to show that these are not mutually exclusive and that cultural diversity is an asset in any workplace.

But the statistics suggest discrimination on the part of Canadian employers and show a major divide between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal workforce. A recent study by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) entitled “The Income Gap between Aboriginal Peoples and the rest of Canada” was brought to our attention by The Colour of Poverty network, highlighting that Aboriginal peoples earn on average 30 percent less than non-Aboriginal people and experience the highest rate of income inequality in the country.

This is a continuing trend, and often boilerplate reasons are given to explain the disparity between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal workers — location, lack of education and other more racist in nature.

So we hope that this film is part of a growing media movement to celebrate the skills and contributions of Aboriginal people to society, but also to make non-Aboriginal people sit up and listen. Public perception needs to change along with wage disparities.


Monday, April 26, 2010

May First: High Noon in Nepal

From Jed Brandt's website

There are moments when Kathmandu does not feel like a city on the edge of revolution. People go about all the normal business of life. Venders sell vegetables, nail-clippers and bootleg Bollywood from the dirt, cramping the already crowded streets.

 Uniformed kids tumble out of schools with neat ties in the hot weather. Municipal police loiter at the intersections while traffic ignores them, their armed counter-parts patrol in platoons through the city with wood-stocked rifles and dust-masks as they have for years. New slogans are painted over the old, almost all in Maoist red. Daily blackouts and dry-season water shortages are the normal daily of Nepal’s primitive infrastructure, not the sign of crisis.

Revolutions don’t happen outside of life, like an asteroid from space – but from right up the middle, out of the people themselves.
Read the rest of this article here.

UCPN (M) announces indefinite general strike from May 2

Organizing for Defeat: The Relevance and Utility of the Trade Union as a Legitimate Question

Brian Green
Labour/Le Travail

The continuity of struggle is easy: the workers need only themselves and the boss in front of them. But the continuity of organization is a rare and complex thing: as soon as it becomes institutionalized it becomes used by capitalism....                                              Mario Tronti, Lenin in England

THE DECLINE AND RETREAT of the North American labour movement in the past two decades has been a matter of extensive commentary and scholarly and political debate.

 While these discussions have contributed immensely to our understanding of economic restructuring and strategic imperatives for the labour movement's continued political viability, much of the literature is limited to either a "counting of the dead" or a focus exclusively on the aggressive strategy of capital in the post-Keynesian era. Surprisingly little has been said about unions themselves and the relationship between their organizational consolidation as partners of a once ascendant Keynesian class compromise and their subsequent paralysis in the face of the collapse of that compromise.

This paper will attempt to initiate such a discussion by tackling these questions: how did the historical development of the trade union form render it particularly vulnerable to the ravages of capitalist restructuring? And what, then, might this suggest about the future viability of the union as we know it?
Read this paper here.

Turning the Tide

Bookmark Saskatoon's Turning the Tide website as its plans to have its online ordering bookstore operating soon.

Owned by Saskatoon activist Peter Garden, who is one of the guest presenters at Regina's May  Day event, Turning the Tide is a hub of activity among Saskatoon activists.

Join their facebook page here.

Sustainability is Achievable, But How Do We Get There?

Transforming Saskatchewan's Electrical Future (Part 1)
by Mark Bigland-Pritchard, Peter Prebble

This is the first in a series of CCPA Saskatchewan papers, written by Green Energy Project Saskatchewan researchers, on the options for sustainable electricity generation in the province. Future papers will consider each of the principal components outlined in the text below, explain the meaning and the relevance of some of the commonly-used technical terms (such as “baseload” and “smart grid”), and explore the policy options available to encourage the transition to sustainability.

Read this paper here.

The Modern Post: Powered by People

My dad was a letter carrier in Regina, hired by Canada Post as were many other WW2 veterans. I still have his Letter Carriers Union of Canada union pin. In a vote among all Canada Post emloyees, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers was choosen over the LCUC .

This is an interesting video from CUPW linking yesterday's battles with issues today. NYC.

Dad in gear. Circa 1960s.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Visioning Otherwise: Imagining a World Without Capitalism

This presentation and discussion address some of the lessons and limitations of historic and contemporary (Canadian and international) visions of a world without capitalism. The panel reflects on different perspectives and the diversity of our vision of a 'new politics' – from Canadian working class history to indigenous feminism. Moderated by Abbie Bakan.

Part 1
Ian MacKay: Canadian cultural historian at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Ian's research interests lie in Canadian cultural history, Canadian left history, and in the economic and social history of the Atlantic Region of Canada.

Ian is the author of Rebels, Reds, Radicals: Rethinking Canada's Left History, which introduces a new multi-volume history of the Canadian left. The first volume of this series is recently released, Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists and the People's Enlightenment in Canada, 1890-1920.

This was was recorded at the 3rd Greater Toronto Workers' Assembly in Toronto.
Part 2 here.

Tony Babino's L'Internationale

The version from Micheal Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Feminism - a 21st century manifesto

Written by Lindsey German

There have been very great changes in women’s lives in the past few decades - but there is still much to fight for. Here is my manifesto for a 21st century feminism.

1.Globalisation and neo liberalism have had a profound effect on the lives of millions of women. Capitalism itself has created new forms and manifestations of women’s oppression.

2.Women’s oppression is a product of class society which has existed for thousands of years. It was only with the development of capitalism that large numbers of women developed a consciousness of their position and the ability to do something about it.

3.Women have been drawn into the workforce in millions but working in factories, offices and shops has not led to an improvement in women’s lives far less to liberation. Women suffer exploitation at work as well as still shouldering the double burden of family and childcare as well as paid work.

4.Women’s traditional role as wives and mothers has not disappeared but has been reinvented to fit in with the needs of exploitation. They are now expected to juggle all aspects of their lives and are blamed as individuals for any failings in family or work life.

5.The talk of glass ceilings and unfairly low bonuses for women bankers miss the point about liberation, which is that liberation has to be for all working women and not just a tiny number of privileged women.

6.Although all women suffer oppression and face discrimination, their life experiences are radically different. Women are not united as a sex but are divided on the basis of class. Middle and upper class women share in the profits from the exploitative system in which we live and use this benefit to alleviate their own oppression. Working class women are usually the people who cook, clean and provide personal services for these women, receiving low wages and often neglecting their own families to do so.

7.Women are more than ever regarded as objects defined by their sexuality. The commercialisation of sexuality with its lad and ladette culture, its pole dancing clubs and its post-modern Miss World contests keeps women being judged as sex objects as if nothing has changed since the 1950s.

8.This objectification, alongside women’s role as supposedly the property of men, leads to domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse. This abuse is under recognised and under reported. It was only in the 1960s and 70s that these issues began to be viewed as political.

9.To control their own lives, women must control their own bodies and sexuality.

10.Capitalist ideology prioritises the family and the subordinate role of women and children within it, while at the same time forcing individual members of the family to sacrifice ‘family life’ because of the pressures of work and migration.

11.The priorities of the profit system and the existence of the privatised family means that women’s oppression is structured into capitalism. Any genuine liberation has to be connected to a wider movement for human emancipation and for working people to control the wealth that they produce. That’s why women and men have to fight for liberation. Socialism and women’s liberation are inextricably connected.

12.We will not win without a fight. Every great social movement raises the question of women. In the 19th century the movement for women’s emancipation took its name from the movement to abolish slavery. In the 20th century women’s liberation took its name from the movements against colonialism around the world. 21st century women’s liberation has to fight to change the world and to end the class society which created oppression and exploitation in the first place.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Regina's Hits of 1965!

Click image to enlarge

An Injury to All: Going Beyond Collective Bargaining as We Have Known It

Is Conventional Trade Unionism Obsolete?

By Stephen Lerner

The following article will be published in New Labor Forum's Spring 2010 issue (out on May 3rd).

The hope and optimism of the 2008 election is being derailed by economic meltdown and a legislative process seemingly incapable of producing real change. We entered 2010 with workers having lost trillions in income, homes, and retirement funds while the banks and  corporations that crashed the economy continue to use taxpayer subsidies to further consolidate their economic control. The majority of union members are in the public sector at the very time when states are drowning in hundreds of billions of dollars of budget deficits. And if labor and other progressives don't offer an alternative, there is a real danger of the right-wing capturing the growing populist anger and using it to attack government's ability to limit corporate power, and regulate and repair the economy.

This is the time to offer a moral voice for those devastated by the economic crisis, and to have the courage and passion to liberate ourselves from the straitjacket of limited expectations. Unions, and their members, must join with communities long mired in poverty--and the tens of millions of people being forced out of the middle class--to imagine and articulate a vision of a better world, and to help lead the battle to win it. We have the opportunity to work with a growing group of potential allies to develop a plan and strategy to achieve that vision--but, to do so, we have to question and challenge long held assumptions and ideas.

The labor movement in the United States suffers from a version of "the Stockholm Syndrome." We have been held hostage for so long by a messianic free market ideology that we have come to empathize with it and adopt the views of our "kidnappers." We have been on the defensive and losing for so long that we have internalized the idea that the economic system we currently have is the only one possible, and that the only progress we can make is modest and incremental at best. Instead, we have no choice but to chart a fundamentally different course grounded in the idea that the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a small economic elite and giant corporations is warping democracy and undermining the ability of the vast majority of the people in this country--including workers, unions, and progressives--to organize, bargain, pass legislation, and make substantive change.

Although we missed an opportunity last year--offered by the economic collapse to organize against Wall Street, the banks, and giant multinational corporations--the ongoing economic crisis and recession continues to create the conditions to organize on a far grander scale. It is precisely in times of economic and political turmoil that movements have been born, and the radical redistribution of wealth and power becomes possible.

Just as the economic collapse exposed the fundamental flaws of how our economic system is governed, it also exposed the failure of the labor movement's approach to the economy and the shortcomings of our approaches to organizing and bargaining. In the post-World War II era, labor accepted that corporations managed their companies and the country's economy. Corporations produced profits and jobs, and unions played the role of a very junior partner negotiating narrowly on issues of wages and benefits for unionized workers. Labor's job was to negotiate for a "fair" share of an expanding economic pie for union workers and to leave the rest to corporate America. During bargaining, unions didn't demand a role in determining how corporations managed companies, what products they made, or the quality of the services they provided.

Nor did they consider the impact of their decisions on the health of specific communities or the overall economy. Unions accepted the cliche that what was good for business was good for America. While this
produced real gains for unionized workers in the booming post-World War II industrial economy, it's clear that this model doesn't work; it is broken and it isn't repairable.

Any effort to address this requires a common understanding of why the current model isn't repairable--we have to figure out and develop a visionary and transformative way to replace it. For unions to play a role in reshaping how the economy is organized, we need to figure out how to make collective bargaining relevant, launch organizing campaigns that build movements that unite workers with the needs of their communities, and--in so doing--challenge the dominance of corporate power and money.

Making Collective Bargaining Matter

We need to politicize, transform, and rescue collective bargaining from irrelevance by expanding its goals to sddress the issues that matter most to workers and to the country. Collective bargaining can't only be about improving wages and grievance procedures for union members--it must also be a tool for fixing broken tndustries, creating economic opportunity, and altering the business practices that exploit communities and pollute the environment. Communities and allies must become invested in workers organizing into unions as a way to achieve their own self-interests.

Arguing that--in a moment of (perhaps) our greatest weakness--we should commit ourselves to expanding the scope of our demands runs counter to what we've done for years; in moments of weakness, we've narrowed what we organize around and fight for. But unions, collective bargaining, and organizing make less and less sense the more we narrow the scope of what we are trying to achieve. The union campaigns that show the greatest promise and make labor relevant are ones that broaden--not narrow--what we are fighting for.

Saskatchewan Greenhouse Gas Pollution Action Plan


Bert Weichel, President of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society today released a recommended plan of action aimed at slashing greenhouse gas pollution in Saskatchewan 40% by the year 2020. “Greenhouse gas pollution has been on a steady rise in Saskatchewan” said Weichel. “At 73.8 tonnes of emissions per capita, we are now one of the highest greenhouse gas polluting jurisdictions in the entire world. The international scientific community is recommending that Canada reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by the year 2020. The Saskatchewan Government should adopt that reduction target and implement the public policy changes needed to accomplish it.”

To date Saskatchewan climate change policy has focused on a proposal to achieve one million tonnes of reduction through a carbon capture and storage project at the Boundary Dam Power Station. “However, that reduction would only cut a tiny fraction of the seventy five million tonnes Saskatchewan now emits”, Weichel observed. The Province also plans to expand wind power by 200 MW and is considering regulating Saskatchewan emitters who exceed 50,000 tonnes of emissions at a single facility. “These steps have merit” said Weichel, “but they will not get us anywhere close to the reductions the international scientific community says are necessary if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.”

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society recommends the following additional public policy measures aimed at curbing and reducing greenhouse gas pollution in Saskatchewan.

1. Set target dates for phasing out each of Saskatchewan’s coal fired generating stations.

2. Launch a large investment in electricity efficiency in Saskatchewan, a measure guaranteed to save SaskPower ratepayers money within five years. 300 MW of savings by 2017 is readily achievable.

3. Begin replacing coal fired power with cogeneration (using natural gas), efficiency measures and a broad mix of renewable energy sources ranging from biomass and small scale hydro to a decentralized wind power network that could readily supply 15% of Saskatchewan’s electricity needs. Require SaskPower to target a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

4. Adopt regulations that require the oil and gas industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2020, including sharp cuts to the flaring and venting of methane.

5. Adopt energy efficiency codes for all new building construction in Saskatchewan. Energy Star construction should become the new standard.

6. Utilize proven designs developed in Saskatchewan to construct homes capable of reducing energy consumption 80% at an incremental construction cost of 12%.

7. Launch a major energy efficiency retrofit of Saskatchewan homes and businesses through SaskEnergy, with retrofits designed to pay for themselves within 8 years using solely the energy savings.

8. Offer financial incentives for the purchase of super energy efficient vehicles; also offer financial incentives for trucking companies to save energy by installing auxiliary power units. Reduce the speed limit to 95km per hour on all Saskatchewan highways, as a way to curb gasoline consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Actively discourage the purchase of large trucks and SUV’s when they are unnecessary to tasks that need to be performed. Support cities to construct a high quality network of bicycle trails and encourage cycling throughout the spring, summer and fall.

9. The Province and the federal government should work together to reinstate passenger rail service between Saskatoon, Regina, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert. A shift from road to rail should be strongly encouraged in the commercial transport sector.

10. District heating systems that run on waste heat and renewable energy sources should be installed in large urban downtowns; district heating systems based on solar, wind and biomass energy should be installed in new subdivisions.

11. SaskPower should offer carefully planned financial incentives for the adoption of super energy efficient technology by the commercial, agricultural and industrial sectors. In other jurisdictions, such as Vermont and California this has greatly increased efficiency and helped utilities avoid the expense of having to build more generating capacity.

“These measures will make our economy more efficient and create thousands of new, environmentally friendly jobs” Weichel said. Most important, they will allow Saskatchewan people to play our part in sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a measure that is crucial to protecting life on earth as we know it. Once emitted, greenhouse gases are very long lasting in the atmosphere. Another 10-15 years of failure to act in Saskatchewan and in much of the developed world, will unleash changes in climate that will be irreversible and will cause much human suffering around the globe. So the time for action is now” Mr. Weichel concluded.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Female Legislative Leadership and the CCF-NDP in Saskatchewan

by Cristine de Clercy
Department of Political Studies
University of Saskatchewan

Female Legislative Leadership and the CCF-NDP in Saskatchewan -

Beatrice Trew: First CCF woman MLA

Read about her here.

Premier must keep his promise to consult with the public: TILMA 2.0

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall will be breaking his 2007 promise to the people of Saskatchewan not to sign the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) if he puts his signature to a rebranded version of the agreement. It appears that the New West Partnership will be signed with British Columbia (B.C.) and Alberta in the near future, without any public or legislative oversight.

In an open letter sent today to the Premier, over 30 groups and individuals called on the Premier to release the full text of the New West Partnership. These signatories made presentations in 2007 at the legislative hearings on TILMA, arguing that the government should reject the controversial interprovincial trade agreement. Today they called on the Premier to conduct a legislative review and full and transparent public hearings on any proposed New West Partnership.

“In June 2007, when he was leader of the opposition, Brad Wall listened to the overwhelming voices of the people of Saskatchewan and made the right decision in pledging that he wouldn’t sign on to TILMA,” says Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. “Now less than three years later he appears ready to sign a secret deal that nobody has seen, that appears to be based on TILMA, and he’s hoping the people of Saskatchewan will be fooled by a fresh coat of paint and a new name. I don’t think so.”

In 2007 over 70 organizations and individuals raised concerns about several provisions of TILMA , including those that would lower regulatory standards and that would implement a private tribunal for corporations to challenge provincial rules and standards.

“Saskatchewan was right to reject TILMA then, and it should reject a rebranded TILMA now,” adds Scott Harris, the Prairie Regional Organizer with the Council of Canadians. “Nothing has suddenly changed to make lowest-common-denominator regulations and standards good for Saskatchewan. Nothing has suddenly changed to make giving corporations the right to sue elected governments for millions of dollars for ‘impeding trade’ – decided on by unaccountable dispute panels – suddenly a good idea for Saskatchewan.”

“Handcuffing the ability of the province, municipalities, school boards and public enterprises to make decisions in the best interest of Saskatchewan flies in the face of democratic principles,” concludes Gary Schoenfeldt, chair of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Trade Committee. “The Premier has an obligation to show the people of Saskatchewan what’s in this new TILMA agreement before he signs anything. Both Brad Wall and Ken Krawetz are on record as saying they would never sign a TILMA agreement without first consulting with Saskatchewan people and we are asking them to keep their promise.”

The groups are asking when the three provinces plan to sign off on the New West Partnership. In his February 9, 2010 Throne Speech, BC Premier Gordon Campbell stated that the “new west partnership with Alberta and Saskatchewan … will build on the success of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement” and on March 30, 2010 BC Liberal MLA Douglas Horne tabled a Notice of Motion saying, “Be it resolved that this House support the creation of the New West Partnership with Alberta and Saskatchewan.”

For more information:
Larry Hubich, President, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour: (306) 537-7330
Gary Schoenfeldt, Chair, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Trade Committee: (306) 537-7091
Scott Harris, Prairies Regional Organizer, Council of Canadians: (780) 233-2528

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day and the International Year of Biodiversity

See the Change, Be the Change: 4th Annual Environmental Film Festival and Environmental Activist Awards
Royal Saskatchewan Museum Theatre, Regina
Friday, April 23rd at 7:30 pm - Film Screenings

The Story of Stuff (20 min.)
The Story of Stuff takes viewers on a provocative and eye-opening tour of the real costs of our consumer driven culture—from resource extraction to iPod incineration. Annie Leonard, an activist who has spent the past 10 years traveling the globe fighting environmental threats, narrates the Story of Stuff, delivering a rapid-fire, often humourous and always engaging story about “all our stuff—where it comes from and where it goes when we throw it away.”

The Story of Cap & Trade is a fast-paced, fact-filled look at the leading climate solution being discussed at Copenhagen and on Capitol Hill. Host Annie Leonard introduces the energy traders and Wall Street financiers at the heart of this scheme and reveals the "devils in the details" in current cap and trade proposals: free permits to big polluters, fake offsets and distraction from what’s really required to tackle the climate crisis.

The Story of Bottled Water (8 min.)
The film explores the bottled water industry’s attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces. The film concludes with a call to ‘take back the tap,’ not only by making a personal commitment to avoid bottled water, but by supporting investments in clean, available tap water for all.

8:15 pm - Environmental Activist Awards Ceremony

Regina's SEN Environmental Activist Awards will be presented by Lynn Hainsworth, Executive Director of Saskatchewan Eco-Network to the Campbell Collegiate Environmental Club, Catherine Verrall, Paule Hjertaas and Jim Harding.
Discussion to follow. Free Admission. Fair Trade coffee will be served.

Saturday, April 24th, 7:30 pm - Film Screenings

Refugees of the Blue Planet (54 min.)
Each year, millions of people the world over are driven to forced displacement. From the Maldives to Brazil, and even closer to home, here in Canada, the disturbing accounts of people who have been uprooted are amazingly similar. The enormous pressure placed on rural populations as a result of the degradation of their life-supporting environment is driving them increasingly further from their way of life. The Refugees of the Blue Planet sheds light on the little-known plight of a category of individuals who are suffering the repercussions of this reality: environmental refugees. They are constantly growing in number and often have no legal status, even though their right to a clean and sustainable environment has been violated. In French with English subtitles.

Taking Back Control of Our Food (46 min.)
This is a film featuring Dr. Wayne Roberts, Coordinator, Toronto Food Policy Council; introduced by Elaine Sukava of Food Secure Saskatchewan.

Free Admission. Toonie concession available featuring Fair Trade coffee, popcorn and pop.

Sponsored by: RSM Associates, Saskatchewan EcoNetwork, Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation, Food Secure Saskatchewan and the Education for Sustainable Development Network.

For more information contact the Royal Saskatchewan Museum at 306-787-2815 or visit