At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13, Canada Post workers at the 600 Commissioner Street plant in Toronto kicked their supervisors out and declared the next few days would be “management-free.”
The plant’s shop stewards led the remaining workers into the front of the plant for a coffee and a rally. They draped the front windows from the inside with banners reading, among other things, “We Are Not Pack Mules,” before barricading the plant’s driveway.
Barricades remained in place the rest of the week as workers maintained the picket lines day and night.
Shop Steward Waseem Khan told Fightback the local’s membership has been enthusiastic about keeping security away. “We all go out to their cars and stare them down, they usually scram,” he said.
Another worker, Gerard Van Deelen said “After we led the workers out—and the supervisors out too—they came back, along with security, to socialize, I guess. Well, we’re not in the mood to socialize.”
As for management, Khan said, “They came around a couple of times on the first day and we confronted them and told them we didn’t want to see them.
“We’re ready for the long fight,” Khan said.
New hires push to continue occupation
Though the initial plan was to continue the occupation for only two days, workers pushed to continue.
“We weren’t planning on staying out here this long, but they’ve abused us so much and we got pissed off,” said one worker, who asked to go by George. “On the last day we said, ‘No way, we’re going back.’”
Another worker, who asked to go by Trevor, said much of the push to continue the occupation came from the worst paid workers. “For those hired in the last two years, especially, they get stuck on a two-tier pay system where, for around seven years, you come in, you get beat up and you are forced to carry too much work. I heard their plans to extend the occupation and I said ‘For sure, that’s what we’re doing.’ The company has abused these workers. Now, they’re angry.”
Tim Rodgers, a former shop steward, said the plant on Commissioner Street has an especially bad reputation for abusing its new hires. For years, these low-paid workers were overworked and then dragged into a room where, behind a closed door, their supervisors would berate and threaten them into working faster. Unsurprisingly, this plant also has a very high rate of injuries.
“The managers don’t look at it as overburdening because they’ve never done the work,” Rodgers said.
The fight continues
Though the occupation was set to end Friday night, George said the union’s overtime ban means “not much is getting done.”
“Get up, work like a dog, get beat up, and go to sleep is no way to live,” George said. The overburdening that causes injuries and forced overtime that turns eight-hour shifts into 10 or 12 hours must end.
Asked if he is worried about any reprisals, George answered, “Management may try to retaliate but what are they going to do? They know what we’re up against and how angry we are and they’ve seen us out here, fighting.”
Defend the right to strike
Workers responded favourably to Fightback’s article calling on the Canadian Labour Congress to plan to organize mass resistance to any attempt to impose back-to-work legislation against CUPW members through mobilizations and political strikes.
When Van Deelen was asked by CTV News to respond to the CEO of Ebay urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to legislate strikers back to work, he replied that “his mail gets delivered out of here, so I don’t think he’s getting that tomorrow.”
Nevertheless, the ruling class wants CUPW, historically one of Canada’s most militant unions, crushed. Sooner or later the attack will come. On Nov. 8, Trudeau said that “if we don’t see significant resolution shortly all options will be on the table for resolving this.”
Thus far, management has not yet provided a satisfactory offer to striking workers.
George described its last global offer, rejected by the membership, as “an attempt to give us $1000 and have us all give up. No fucking way. They changed absolutely nothing.”
A defeat in this strike would likely mean a continuation of the deterioration in working conditions at Canada Post and a defeat for the movement as a whole. The leadership of Canada’s labour movement must mobilize the enormous power of organized workers to defend the right to strike and ensure CUPW’s victory.