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Workers are fighting back!

Carolyn Egan

June 11, 2021


Thirty five workers, members of United Steelworkers Local 8300 in Toronto, have been on strike since April 26th fighting against a greedy employer who they refer to as a “pandemic profiteer”. The primarily immigrant women workers held up trucks for two and a half weeks before an injunction came down. Not one got through their line. 

Richards Packaging is the parent company and has profited from the pandemic with a 21% increase in revenue directly related to Covid. That equates to $68 million but it has offered its workers 0%-1%-1%-1% over 4 years. Many of these strikers have worked at the plant 25, 30 and 35 years, most making little over minimum wage. 

They went to work every day through the pandemic risking their health, and are getting next to nothing in return. The work is hard and they do twelve hour shifts. There was Covid in the work place and these workers, deemed essential, were never given any recognition for their hard work that produced these profits. Yet the company rewarded executives with big bonuses that increased by 150% in 2020.

This speaks to the contempt that so many corporations are showing to their workers during Covid and it will only increase as we see case counts beginning to go down and vaccinations are on the rise. What is happening at Rexplas puts a magnifying class on the injustice and inequality that has always existed in our society and has increased during the pandemic. The most vulnerable workers, low wage, racialized women are continuing to bear the brunt of employers attacks.

We are seeing everywhere management going on the offensive in smaller workplaces such as Rexplas or the Wine Rack where members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2 have  gone out on strike over the basic union concept of seniority in shift assignments. The same union struck and won a first contract with Tropicana Community Services a few months ago.

But it is also happening in large multinationals. On June 1st 2,600 Steelworkers walked off the job in Sudbury, Ontario where Valle Canada is trying to force major concessions on benefits and pensions. The workers rejected a tentative agreement by 70% with 87% of the members voting. The last time this local struck was on July 13, 2009 and the members stayed on the line until July 8, 2010. It is said to be one of the longest strikes in Canadian history.

On May 12 almost 100% of the 2,500 Quebec Steelworkers working for ArcelorMittal on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, rejected the company’s final offer and went on strike over pensions, wages and a string of broken commitments. The company is making huge profits and is the largest steel company in the world. It is refusing to negotiate a collective agreement that reflects the just demands of the strikers. Other workers have been joining the picket lines bringing solidarity and encouragement. Support rallies have been held in Longueuil near Montreal at the company’s offices.

These striking workers in Quebec and Ontario are showing the way forward against the employers’ offensives. Corporations are trying to make workers pay for the crises that we have been living through. Working people in all our diversity have suffered enough. It is time to make the corporations pay. We have to provide solidarity to theses strikers and follow their lead in mounting a strong fight back against attacks. We are seeing what employers have in store for us and we have to stop them in their tracks.

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