From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Thu Jun 7 13:29:57 2001
Date: Thu, 7 Jun 2001 12:51:47 -0400
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Charles Brown <CharlesB@CNCL.CI.DETROIT.MI.US>
Subject: CUPE

CUPE president calls for civil disobedience, economic disruption in Ontario

By Bruce Cheadle, Ottawa Citizen, 2 June 2001

OTTAWA (CP)—The head of the country's largest public sector union is calling for civil disobedience and economic disruption in Ontario to combat what she calls the ultra far right agenda of Premier Mike Harris and his Conservatives.

Judy Darcy told several hundred delegates at the Ontario convention of the Canadian Union of Public Employees on Friday that it is time to move the struggle to a whole new level.

If we're going to turn back their agenda, we have to create a crisis too, said Darcy, referring to a strategy of fomenting crisis that was attributed to a Harris cabinet minister during the government's first term.

We have to make it impossible for Mike Harris to govern and for them to get away with their agenda. The union has a host of complaints with the Ontario government, including the proposed Government Efficiency Act, which it says would strip workers of the right to reject unsafe workplaces.

CUPE is also upset over what it calls moves toward privatization of health care and education.

Chris Stockwell, Ontario's labour minister, said Darcy is overreacting to the new provincial workplace law. Professional civil servants will ensure the safety of all workers, he said, while cutting down on unnecessary workplace visits.

If this is causing general strikes and water cannons, then I think Judy Darcy may have gone a bit over the top on this one, Stockwell said in Toronto.

In a speech peppered with references to the civil disobedience in Quebec City at the Summit of the Americas in April, Darcy said all unions must be prepared to join to paralyse Canada's industrial heartland with a general strike.

We have to, as a union, be prepared to take part in civil disobedience and economic disruption if that's what it takes to stop this agenda, said Darcy, who was interrupted by chants of Strike! Strike! Strike! from the delegates.

And if we're going to be effective . . . in civil disobedience, we have to be highly organized, we have to be well-trained, we have to be well prepared in advance, including in being prepared to deal with tear gas . . .

Later Friday, the 700 delegates passed a motion for CUPE Ontario to lead the Ontario Federation of Labour and other union and activist groups in at least a one-day strike before December 2001.

Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario wing of CUPE, said he has already talked to the OFL, which is proposing wild cat strikes in opposition to the Harris government.

It's not a large leap to what we're talking about, Ryan said in an interview. We will see strikes taking place on a province-wide basis and there will be economic disruption in Ontario in the fall.

In an interview, Darcy said the union will have to buy gas masks if it is serious about challenging the Harris government.

Yes, it does mean people have to be organized in affinity groups, they do have to have gas masks, otherwise we're leading people into disaster.