Solidarity Ottawa is taking this opportunity to publicly state our support for the membership of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) as they face the Liberal government’s unconstitutional Bill C-89, legislation intended to end their legal and entirely justified strike action. CUPW has made their members’ fight for basic health and safety and gender equality the front page news they need to be.
We want to be clear: Solidarity Ottawa supports CUPW in any and all steps it may choose to take in response to this illegitimate legislation, up to and including a decision to defy it.
Bill C-89 was put together in support of the employer side to, once again, interfere with free collective bargaining and postal workers’ Charter rights to freedom of association. This deep set class preference is also visible this week in the government’s claims of helplessness in the face of GM’s announced closure of their Oshawa plant with the loss of thousands of jobs — after billions of public bailout dollars were given to the company in 2009. Private profits restored — jobs lost.
Labour history in Canada has repeatedly shown that governments will reflexively side with employers by forcing workers back to work with legislation that is later deemed unconstitutional by the courts. By again introducing this back to work legislation, the Trudeau government is following the same anti-union script as the Harper Conservatives in their 2011. That legislation, also used against CUPW, was found unconstitutional by an Ontario court – but not until five years after it was introduced.
We agree with CUPW that this new Liberal legislation violates the fundamental rights and freedoms of targeted workers. We view it, and we should treat it, as an illegal law – not worthy of our respect.
In this context, we think it’s important to recall that it was the courageous decision by CUPW members to launch their historic 1965 wildcat strike outside of the then-existing legal framework that forced the Pearson government to recognize — for the first time — the rights of public service workers to collectively bargain and to strike.
Since that time, CUPW has repeatedly led the labour movement in using its bargaining power and its right to strike to win crucial victories for all workers — like the paid maternity leave first won in the famous 1981 postal strike. More recently, CUPW has added the fight for expanded postal services — like postal banking — to their social bargaining agenda. This leadership is widely recognized and very highly valued.
For all of these reasons, Solidarity Ottawa is announcing our commitment to mobilize even broader community and organizational support for CUPW in the coming weeks and months.
The true anti-working class colours of the Liberal government have now become even more starkly clear. Their claims of support for workers, the “middle class”, and free collective bargaining have been exposed as utterly empty rhetoric. Bill C-89 marks the clearest indication yet that the Trudeau Liberals intend to stay the course set by the Harper Tories of embracing an increasingly aggressive neoliberal capitalism — a system that thrives on depriving workers of their basic rights and power.
We must counter this attack. Protecting the rights of all workers to collectively bargain and to strike will require all of us to dedicate ourselves to the defeat of Bill C-89. We invite everyone — union members, other workers, movement activists, anyone in the Ottawa region who agrees with this statement — to stay tuned and get ready to join us in providing concrete solidarity to the members of CUPW. Let’s get to work!
– the Coordinating Committee of Solidarity Ottawa