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CUPE 3903 logoI am a member of Unit 1 of CUPE 3903. Today I was kicked off the picket lines of my union. I am a committed member of CUPE 3903 and have put my heart and soul into this strike. My apparent crime - insisting on my democratic right to circulate a petition in my trade union among my coworkers.

While picketing at the North-West Gate today I was discussing with fellow-union members the political ban that had been placed on Fightback, which is an organization that I support. I had taken the initiative to launch a petition, as a rank-and-file CUPE 3903 member. The petition is a very simple one with a single sentence:

“BE IT RESOLVED THAT that the political ban placed on the organization Fightback by CUPE 3903 be lifted.”

Most members of my union are not aware of the political ban, or know very little about the ban (read about it here). Many of my brothers and sisters on the lines don’t know that dozens of pro-strike undergraduate students and other workers have literally been turned away from the picket lines. In fact, many co-workers have asked me “where have the undergrads gone?” and “where has Fightback been?”.

Union members are not aware that on numerous occasions Fightback made it clear that we are in favour of accountability. This included my proposal that CUPE 3903 manage an independent and democratic investigation, to which Fightback offered full co-operation. In my resolution, it was clearly stated that Fightback was prepared to accept interim measures against any individual while an investigation was underway. My proposal (you can find it here), which would have resolved the matter, was hidden by the union leadership from the members of CUPE 3903.

Most importantly, most members of my union are unaware of the fact that no concrete allegations have been made against Fightback or members of Fightback. No individual abusers or incidents of sexual violence have been reported. These facts have been completely hidden from the members of my union.

I was discussing the petition with fellow co-workers when a member of the Strike Committee told me that I could not have my petition. I made clear that I would insist on my democratic rights. I calmly insisted on my right to express myself.

Democratic rights are the cornerstone of the labour movement. Freedom of discussion and dissent are vital for a healthy, strong, and united trade union.

After a short delay, I was told to leave on the authority of Strike Coordinators of CUPE 3903. I respectfully abided by this directive, which has authority to manage the picket lines. I also expressed that this was a disgraceful infringement of democratic rights of members of the trade union, and that I would challenge and appeal this decision.

It should be noted that one of the Strike Committee members who kicked me off the picket lines was Martin McAlpine. Martin is a leader of the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM), which is a Stalinist/Maoist organization with a tiny base of support at the campus. It was the RSM that initiated the witch-hunt and political censorship in the undergraduate student movement and sit-in. The motivation of these Stalinists was to maintain total control of the sit-in (read about it here). As a result, they have destroyed it, and there is now very little participation and it is not taken seriously be students. The result of bureaucratic/stalinist methods is evident.

This is not the first time that I have distributed a petition on the picket lines among fellow members. The only difference is that this one is a challenge to the rule of the current union leadership of CUPE 3903. It is clear that the union leadership is prepared to use witch-hunts and political censorship to maintain control and repress opposition.

The union leadership is openly contradicting its own previous position regarding the ban on Fightback. CUPE 3903 Chairperson, Devin Lefabvre explained that, “[t]his motion does not prevent individuals, especially those who are also members of CUPE 3903, from attending our picket lines and union spaces.”

As a member of CUPE 3903 I have been kicked off of the picket lines for expressing myself and circulating a petition I initiated. Just last week, student supporters of the strike were at the picket lines and they were also kicked out by the strike committee. These students did not come with any political banners, placards, or newspapers, however they did not hide that they were supporters of Fightback.

These actions show that the union leadership is even kicking out “individuals” from the lines. Therefore, the policy that is now being enforced is a complete restriction on the democratic rights of supporters Fightback.

The motivation of the union leadership in enforcing such a ban can only be that they are afraid that the rank-and-file will know the facts. They are afraid of democratic discussion and they are afraid of the rank-and-file opposing this political ban.

This explains the actions of the union leadership today against me. I have poured my sweat and tears into this struggle. Anybody who knows me from the strike, knows that I have been extremely active on the picket lines and in the actions organized by CUPE 3903. When the political ban was first imposed on the organization I support, I was devastated.

Now I am angry. These methods are harming our strike and our union. Rank-and-file democracy and the freedom of different political trends is a vital principle for the labour movement.

This is not the first time there has been opposition to the CUPE 3903 leadership during a strike. During the 2015 strike the union leadership wanted to accept concessions, and a left wing opposition emerged. Fightback members supported this left-wing opposition on the picket lines and many leaflets were distributed. A number of those critics of the leadership from the 2015 strike are now on the leading bodies of CUPE 3903. The same people who openly raised criticisms during the 2015 strike, are now hypocritically telling supporters of Fightback that we should not be raising our criticisms during the current strike.

If these bureaucratic methods are not challenged, they will not remain limited to repressing democratic rights of the Marxists who support Fightback. The witch-hunt will spread to other political trends and other political opponents of this leadership. The result can only be reactionary and harmful to a strong labour and student movement.

No to witch-hunts and bureaucratic censorship in CUPE 3903!

Don’t kick members of CUPE 3903 off the picket lines!

For rank-and-file democracy in CUPE 3903!

Lift the ban on Fightback!

Don’t turn away students and workers who are here to support the strike!

Support Fightback today. Help build the revolution!