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Solidarity with the elevator workers strike

By: 
Melissa Graham

May 30, 2013

As of the end of May, there are no talks planned in the strike that's seen 1,400 Ontario members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors striking for more than a month with no end in sight.
 
According to Ben McIntyre, business manager for the IUEC Local 50 in Toronto, the union's deal with the National Elevator and Escalator Association expired at the beginning of May. With no new deal, the elevator workers went on strike. Like many workers, they’re fighting just to keep what they already have.
 
But a problem is brewing that may make things even more challenging for the Ontario’s elevator workers. If the maintenance workers' strike continues, the agency regulating elevator safety in Ontario says it may need to shut down elevators for safety reasons. The Technical Standards and Safety Authority says it requires regular safety checks and is concerned that, with elevator companies won't be able to keep up with required inspections.
 
But while you’re journeying up those flights of stairs, it’s worth remembering that these are the workers who keep those elevators running every day, and without them, your commute might be much more exhausting.
 
Having said that, many people depend on elevators as a part of daily life; I use an elevator roughly ten times a day. Until they develop an easily available wheelchair that can handle stairs, elevator workers will be an invisible army connecting me to the outside world.
 
And I’d personally prefer that army to be well paid, well qualified, and in strong enough numbers to get the job done.
 
I’ve had calls from reporters expecting me to be angry about this situation, and I can understand why some people are upset and worried, but without this strike would any of us stop and think about the importance of the work they do?
 
The Toronto Transit Commission is trying to make it easier for people with disabilities, and other people who depend on elevators while supporting the striking workers. They are adding buses and looking at their options for riders as the elevator workers strike continues. They are also putting Wheel-Trans buses in strategic locations to assist people that may get stranded because of broken down elevator. Wheel-Trans is the accessible public transit alternative for people with disabilities to use in Toronto when they can’t access the regular transit system.
 
Elevator workers are vital to the quality of life for many who live in Ontario, including people with disabilities. Let’s not let others make this a case of workers’ rights versus disability rights; let’s make it a time we supported each other in solidarity, so that we can all have the quality of life we deserve.
 
If you like this article, come to Marxism 2013: Revolution In Our Time, a conference this weekend of ideas to change the world. Sessions include "Disability, austerity and resistance",  "Occupy: a brief history of workplace occupations", and "Solidarity against austerity: lessons from the front lines."

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