From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Mon Dec 18 17:01:33 2000
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 13:27:20 -0500
Date: Sat, 16 Dec 2000 23:32:40 -0500
-------- Original Message --------
Mine Mill Needs More Support and Militant Action Against Falconbridge-Noranda
By Gary Kinsman, 16 December 2000
Dear new socialists:
Here is a draft article for the next issue of NS. I am sending it to the list so that people have a better sense of what is going on in this important struggle. It would be great if people in Toronto could help get the Metro Network for Social Justice, the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice and the CAW and others to organize an action at the Falconbridge corporate office in support of Mine Mill.
SUDBURY- As I am writing this (on Dec. 16) despite stepped up militancy on the part of members of Mine Mill (CAW Local 598) and growing community support for the union in the Sudbury area in its fight against Falconbridge-Noranda (see article last issue) much more is needed if this important strike is to succeed. The workers have been on strike since August 1. Falconbridge-Noranda is intent on imposing a contract on the workers that will take away the gains of decades of union struggle. They want to establish a more "flexible" form of production that increases the power of the corporation at the expense of the workers. To do this they are engaging in major strikebreaking tactics including the use of scabs and the hiring of the Accu-Fax strikebreaking firm.
Mine Mill, a union with a long and proud militant history, faces a formidable capitalist foe. Noranda now controls 55% of Falconbridge and Noranda, in turn, is 40% owned by Edper Brascan, which is the holding company of the Toronto Bronfmans. Noranda, Falconbridge and Edper share a number of key directors. But Mine Mill is also up against more than Falconbridge-Noranda. The Harris government has allowed Falconbridge to hire scabs to keep production going though its repeal of anti-scab legislation. The courts have ruled against the right of Mine Mill to maintain effective picket lines at Falconbridge operations. And the police have arrested at least three members of Mine Mill on the picket lines charging them with "common assault" and "obstruction of justice" and have collaborated with Accu-Fax, the strikebreaking firm.
Most recently on Dec. 13th journalist Mick Lowe and Cambrian College teacher Stuart Cryer were arrested at the urging of Accu-Fax employees as they were taking video footage of these employees, as part of a video on this labour struggle. While Accu-Fax has been videotaping Mine Mill members since the beginning of the strike Lowe and Cryer were both charged with "trespassing" and Cryer was charged with "assault" for touching the cap of one of the employees.
When it became clear in October that Falconbridge was pushing for a long strike and refusing to return to the bargaining table Mine Mill members mounted an impressive blockade of entrances to Falconbridge operations. In response the corporation filed for and got a picket line injunction preventing effective picketing by the union. In this situation the union leadership made some concessions and tried to get back to the bargaining table including accepting the binding arbitration of the dispute. But the company would have none of this. Union activists shifted some of their picketing to the sites where the scabs are picked up in the mornings. It is here that the police have started to arrest Mine Mill members but the workers have escalated their tactics. The five-day solidarity strike in Norway in late November by Falconbridge unionized workers opposed to working on scab production from Sudbury, while largely symbolic, was an important show of international solidarity.
Mine Mill members have also continued to take their struggle to the corporate office of Falconbridge in Toronto. On Dec. 11 50 union members again went into the corporate office making their concerns known. Earlier that day they were at Queen's Park where they were thrown out of the spectator's gallery when they called for the government to change the legislation allowing Falconbridge to hire scabs. And on Dec. 14 Mine Mill filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board charging the corporation with unfair labour practices for bargaining in bad faith by refusing to return to the bargaining table and for constantly imposing new conditions before talks can begin.
Financial support and the collections of toys and gifts have been coming in from the CAW in southern Ontario and from local unions for Mine Mill members and their families especially as the holiday season approaches. There is also widespread community support for Mine Mill but it has remained largely passive in character. The Sudbury Coalition for Social Justice in collaboration with Mine Mill initiated a petition campaign in support of the union and against Falconbridge-Noranda pointing out that the Harris government has allowed for the hiring of scabs. Within five days close to 1,000 signatures had been gathered. Tied into this petition campaign more than 200 people from the Sudbury Coalition, the Labour Council, Mine Mill, striking Steelworkers at the Salvation Army, the Laurentian University Faculty Association and others came out on Dec. 9 at one of Sudbury's largest shopping malls to gather support for Mine Mill. Hundreds of passing motorists honked their horns in support for Mine Mill and hundreds of shoppers signed the petition. A Boxing Day Dance is being organized to raise funds for Mine Mill and the other unions that are on strike in the Sudbury area. The Sudbury Coalition and other groups will have to find further ways of transforming this largely passive support into more active and mobilized forms of support for Mine Mill as the strike continues.
This important union struggle has not been getting the attention it deserves. In part this is because there is no national media attention on Sudbury and this strike and it is also in part because of the current CLC/CAW rift. But the stakes are very high in this struggle. In a different context this strike could be just as important to workers, and especially to Sudbury, as the long strike against INCO in 1978-1979. This long strike ended in an important victory against INCO. But if Falconbridge-Noranda can impose a major defeat on Mine Mill than they and other corporations will be in a much stronger position to impose such contracts in other areas of the mining industry and other capitalists will see this as a precedent for imposing these types of contracts and conditions in other areas. This will help to push back the ability of the working class as a whole to resist the imposition of more 'flexible' forms of production. "We think that this strike is one of most important strikes in the country right now, because if Falconbridge can break our union, then any employer can break any union anywhere in this province," stated Rick Grylis, Strike Coordinator and Local Vice President of Mine Mill.
Support for Mine Mill needs to be dramatically stepped up from the central CAW leadership and from CAW members across the country but also from the CLC and all unionists across the country. Falconbridge products must be "hot cargoed" and prevented from being sent to Norway. Social justice activists need to target Falconbridge-Noranda and to mobilize support for Mine Mill. And the leadership and membership of Mine Mill need to develop militant forms of struggle in collaboration with other unions and community groups that can effectively sustain the struggle and put enough pressure on Falconbridge to force them to give up on the imposition of "flexibility" on the workers. For more information visit Mine Mill's website at www.minemill598.com or call (705) 673-1970 or 673-8264.
Gary Kinsman is a member of the Sudbury Coalition for Social Justice and the New Socialist Group.
Comment by Jim Jaszewski
[Decisive action to support the Sudbury ON Falconbridge-Noranda miners is needed NOW (not when it's too late) from esp. Ontario and Canada/U.S. labor councils and union locals and centrals. The CAW got on the CBC national news on Sunday for distributing Xmas presents to the strikers' children (but of course, this is a CAW local now). As is stated below, a LOT more than Xmas presents is needed. A lot more than one strike is at stake. Not quite a PATCO situation -- but it ain't that far from it!
The credibility of the Ontario workingclass to show leadership in the face of neoliberal assaults is at stake here, is what it is, folks. And don't think it won't affect other jurisdictions in future; Or that failures in other jurisdictions in the past haven't led here...
Read the below to understand that this struggle is an important 'test' for the Ontario/Canadian capitalists and their minions in Queen's Park (Toronto political HQ of the ruling class). Every labor council and local in Ontario -- if not Canada and the U.S. -- must make this strike a PRIORITY ISSUE (do I have to point out that the more strikes workers win, the more times the bosses 'blink' and the easier it gets? It's, uh, 'cost effective' to put MORE effort up front NOW, than wait until it's YOUR turn...)
The neoliberals havechosen this particular battlefield. We have to acknowledge this and arrange their defeat. Consider this as being one prong of the fightback against the new Tory anti-worker legislation -- and OCAP's efforts to take the struggle from Queen's Park right to the sleazy supporters of the Tories, right where it hurts -- in their pocketbooks.