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      Stand with CUPW!
      Support the Right To Strike!

      By Alison Bodine

      Loud chants of, "Workers rights are under attack - what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!" and, "Back to work - back to court!" rang out along the Broadway corridor in Vancouver on Saturday, December 1, 2018. The chants were the result of a rally called in support of postal workers in Canada, who have recently been legislated back to work by the government following five weeks of rotating strike actions.

      Following the dynamic rally, which was held in front of the office of Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, postal workers and their supporters marched to a public meeting being held by Liberal MP Joyce Murray. When Joyce Murray arrived, she was greeted with chants of, “Hey Joyce – it's your choice! Respect workers rights!” and, “Hey Joyce, you’re late! Negotiate, don’t legislate!” and was forced into talking to the protestors before continuing into her meeting.

      The December 1 action in Vancouver was one of 31 actions happening across Canada that day from coast-to-coast, organized by the Delivering Community Power campaign, and endorsed by numerous unions, civil society organizations and community groups. These actions brought thousands of people to the streets in defence of not only the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) members, but also of the right to collectively bargain and the right to strike of all unions and workers in Canada.

      Why Are the Postal Workers on Strike?

      50,000 postal workers in Canada have been working for one-year without a contract with Canada Post, as they worked to negotiate a new collective agreement for both the Urban Postal Operations and Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) workers. When it was clear that Canada Post was not listening to any of their demands and had stopped negotiating, postal workers began rotating strikes to pressure Canada Post to negotiate for a collective agreement.

      Any working person in Canada today can identify with the demands of the postal workers: better pay, equal pay between sectors, job security, and a workplace free from injury. For example, today, postal workers are the most injured Federal sector workers in Canada – with an injury rate that is 4.6 higher than average as reported by Labour Canada. CUPW is also demanding an end to compulsory overtime and better conditions for part-time and precarious workers.

      Canada Post is a powerful and profitable corporation, and there should be no question that postal workers should be given well paying, dignified and safe work. However, as the profits of Canada Post go up, especially due to the increase in small package deliveries and advertising mail, workers pay, and job security has gone down, and the loads that there are expected to carry have only increased.

      Back-to-work Legislation – What Happened to Workers Rights?

      On Monday, November 26, Back-to-work legislation, in the form of Bill C-89, was passed by the Canadian government and made into law. This legislation makes the CUPW strike illegal, essentially ordering postal workers back to the job.

      This type of repressive legislation has been used by the government of Canada, and Provincial governments many times since 1950 when it was imposed on striking railway workers. It effectively annuls the rights of workers to strike. Why go on strike at all when the government can order you back to work? Why would any corporation, such as Canada Post, ever negotiate if they could rely on the government to end the strike? Back-to-work legislation destroys the fundamental democratic rights of workers!

      The right to collectively bargain and strike is not only a fundamental right of all working people, it has also been held up in International Labour Law, and by the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in 2016 that that right to strike is a fundamental constitutional right, protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, this same tactic was used by the Harper government against the postal workers in 2011. The Back-to-work legislation imposed then was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016.

      So, why is the government of Canada trying the same anti-democratic maneuvers? As the economy of Canada faces a deeper crisis, the resulting austerity measures mean that poor, working, and oppressed people in Canada will come under increasing attack by the government. Back-to-work legislation that strips working people of their rights also sends a chill to all people and organizations fighting for human, civil and democratic rights.

      Postal workers continue to fight for their rights!

      The Back-to-work legislation has not deterred the postal workers from fighting for their rights. Although they have been forced back to work, they are continuing to organize. Just listen to James Hutt, from the Delivering Community Power Campaign, speaking outside of an event with MP Joyce Murray during the December 1 action in Vancouver:

      “We are here to say that you can’t pretend to be a feminist government when forcing women to work for free. We are here to say that you can’t pretend to be against climate change when the postal workers have put forward the best climate action plan. We are here to say to you that you can work with us or you can fight the 50,000 postal workers across the country and their thousands of allies. On four days notice, we called a day of action, and there are 31 rallies across this country; all the way from Alert Bay over to the Atlantic, from big towns like Vancouver to Thompson, Manitoba and The Pas, Manitoba.

      Thousands and thousands of Canadians have stood up to say to postal workers that I support them, I support their Delivering Community Power vision, and I stand for the right to strike! We will not stand for any politician of any colour that tramples on workers rights!

      Postal workers have a proud history of fighting for broad social change in this country. In 1981, they went on strike for 41 days to win paid maternity leave. Today it is the norm in this country. Now they are going on strike for gender equality and defending our jobs, the jobs which this government says they want. They are going on strike for climate action and services for seniors.

      Importance of solidarity and unity

      When the Trudeau Liberal government began to prepare to use back-to-work legislation, they also began to attempt to turn poor and working people against postal workers – claiming that there was a large and important back-log of mail – 1 million parcels! The President of CUPW, Mike Palecek, responded to this manipulative lie with the simple response, “We call that Monday,” referring to the number of parcels often processed by postal workers daily.

      As poor, working and oppressed people in Canada we must not be fooled by the tricks of the government of Canada to take away our rights. Postal workers going on strike isn’t an inconvenience – its workers exercising their fundamental rights and fighting for a dignified life. The right to collectively organize, to have a union and the right to strike must be defended.

      Now, that postal workers have been legislated back to work, this fight for CUPW’s right to strike is not only for the postal workers, but it is also a fight in defence of the democratic rights of all working people in Canada. All unions across Canada must stand in defence of the right to strike and against this backwards legislation. If poor, working and oppressed people across Canada unite we can dismantle Back-to-work legislation, and win a victory for postal workers, and all workers!

      Let’s unite and fight against this mockery of democracy – let’s dismantle the Back-to-work legislation!

      To follow the Delivering Community Power campaign, and sign a petition against the Back-to-work legislation, Bill C-89 visit: http://www.deliveringcommunitypower.ca

      At the December 1 rally held in Vancouver, Fire This Time Newspaper had the opportunity to interview a few of the CUPW striking postal workers that have been out on the line. What follows are some of their thoughts.

      Fire This Time: What brings you to the rally here today?

      “Today was to support the postal workers who have been legislated back to work, which is dictatorship rule in my books. I come from the old country, and this is wrong, you can’t get that away from the working class. All these people here are here to support us, and it is only going to get bigger and bigger.”
      - Raymond, a forcibly retired letter carrier, on a medical retirement.

      “We are here today to send Justin Trudeau a message that workers do not want legislation. We want our rights protected, and we want the right to bargain with our employer freely.”
      - Emily, a postal worker in Fraser Valley West.

      “I am here because the back to work legislation is fundamentally wrong and illegal.”
      – Sarah, a letter carrier in Surrey.

      “I see this as not just a fight for postal workers, but all workers rights, including collective bargaining. Things that are in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
      - Norine, letter carrier.

      Fire This Time: What are your thoughts on the back-to-work legislation?

      “We are going to have to change it. It is a criminal act, and we are going to prove that with time. People are going to support us more and more and more here. You watch what happens down the road, just you watch. Just saying.”
      - Raymond, a forcibly retired letter carrier, on a medical retirement.

      “I want to say BS! It is unfair, it is unjust, and we as the workers in Canada deserve the right to bargain freely. We should have never been legislated back. The first chance that Justin Trudeau had he used it, and it is not right. We are standing up; we are fighting back.”
      - Emily, a postal worker in Fraser Valley West.

      “There was no incentive for the corporation to negotiate, and if you keep legislating us back, there never will be. It is not just us; it is other unions that face the same issue.”
      - Norine, letter carrier.

      Fire This Time: What do you hope to see in the next few weeks?

      “We are going to keep the fight going. We have rallies, we have community pickets happening, and we are just going to continue to bombard them with our thoughts on this issue.”
      - Emily, a postal worker in Fraser Valley West.

      “A groundswell of all the unions across Canada getting together and forcing some change.”
      – Sarah, a letter carrier in Surrey.

      “I would like to see this keep up. I would like to see more awareness about what is going on with trade deals, and there is so much involved that affects everybody. People should look at the history of unions and what they originally stood for and fought for. We could easily go back to those.”
      - Norine, letter carrier.

      Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette

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