Jim Pictou is a member of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, “the homeland security of the Mi’kmaq nation.” Today, the Mi’kmaq, whose ancestral lands span much of the Atlantic region of Canada, are at the center of a developing resistance to hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’ in New Brunswick, the process by which high-pressure water and chemicals are injected into the ground to remove natural gas from shale rock. The resistance to fracking in New Brunswick has seen the development of a broad united front of native and non-native people.
by Moshe ben Velvl and Megan Kinch
Two of Canada’s biggest unions, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and Canadian Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) have merged into a new mega-union, Unifor. They have sketched out an ambitious vision that promises to revolutionize the way unions have traditionally organized and the way they have related to the rest of society and the working class who are not organized in unions. Unifor is now Canada’s largest private sector union. But is it a new day for the labour movement, or is it business as usual?
Rank and file workers, especially in the auto sector, have long been demanding a more democratic unionism — for example, Soldiers of Solidarity in the United States. But in a disappointing turn, the “Unity Team” slate ran almost unopposed for 25 leadership positions at the Unifor convention. Long time union leaders Dave Coles of CEP and Ken Lewenza of CAW resigned their presidential positions shortly before the new convention, paving the way for the official choice for new president, Jerry Dias. Dias was being referred to as the new president before the convention even took place, as if it was just a formality. And that’s almost what it was. All of the leadership positions had “Unity Team” members acclaimed, meaning no one ran against them. All, that is, except for one.
Lindsay Hinshelwood, a rank and file worker at Oakville Ford and member of Unifor Local 707, threw in her hat to challenge the leadership at the last minute. Not only that, but she provided a real alternative vision to the business-as-usual attitudes.
Hinshelwood gave an interview to BASICS, in which she was also quite critical of the cheerleading culture being promoted at the convention:
At the CAW convention yesterday, Ken Lewenza gave the exact same speech. We didn’t address the issues that are really affecting us. It was the old cheerleading speech, we fought for this, we fought for that, rah, rah, rah, and meanwhile our economy’s been going backwards for the last 40 years. We weren’t addressing the problems and we weren’t offering solutions to those problems.
After Hinshelwood was nominated to run for the election, co-chair Dave Coles (the outgoing CEP leader) wasn’t even going to allow her to make a speech, supposedly because of time constraints and the fact that there were 24 more “elections” scheduled for that afternoon.
He only changed his mind after someone issued a challenge to the chair from the floor, meaning that he would no longer be able to run the meeting if it was actually put up to a vote and passed. He noticed that the rest of the room was very upset with the fact that he wouldn’t let her speak and probably would have ousted him as chair if he continued to refuse her this right. Hinshelwood had this to say about that important moment at convention:
I’m very proud that the crowd challenged the chair and allowed me to speak. I really appreciate getting the time to speak. And that wasn’t rehearsed, that just came out of my mouth without me thinking about it, and it was really great that the audience responded to it, so obviously people were identifying with what I had to say.
Hinshelwood’s speech made strong criticisms of the practice of the CAW heading into the convention, for agreeing to continuing concessions over the course of the past 15 years that would essentially sell out the new hires and lead to continually declining wages and benefits for workers in the automotive sector.
In the election for president of the union, Hinshelwood got 17.5% of the vote against Jerry Dias. This is an impressive number for a last-minute candidacy with no campaign literature or official backing.
This raises the question of how Unifor can claim to be forging a vision for new fights against corporations and governments, and new organizing drives, when the CAW leadership has shown little desire to actually fight against concessions that will hurt their members. In the last round of negotiations with the big three automakers in 2012, CAW leadership agreed to a concessionary contract without calling a strike in any of the three negotiations. This despite the fact that they had received strike mandate votes of 97% or higher at all three automakers, with Chrysler having a 99% strike mandate overall and the Chrysler Etobicoke plant garnering a rare 100% strike mandate vote. What a strike mandate vote does is give the union representatives a mandate to call a strike at any time during the negotiation of a new collective agreement. The fact that the CAW representatives at Chrysler failed to utilize a strike in 2012 as a bargaining tactic despite the obvious willingness of their members to do so does not provide much promise that the new union, Unifor, will do things any differently.
On the second day of the convention, Hinshelwood provided more concrete ideas about how to fight back:
I’d like to see improvements to the Rand Formula. Workers should have the right to strike between contracts. And I have a question about the Supplemental Workers (SWEs) in the union. For example the SWs on GM lines who pay union dues but are not covered under the collective agreement. How are you going to convince these workers who have no representation but pay dues to fight to protect the first-tier workers?
Currently, the Rand Formula only allows workers to strike at designated times when a contract is over and negotiations are occurring for the signing of a new contract. What Hinshelwood was calling for was for workers to be able to strike between contract negotiations at essentially any time, which has historically been the quickest and most effective way to deal with dangerous conditions or any violations of the collective agreement by the employer.
In this very short comment and question on the second day of the convention, she brought up two of the main problems with the way unionism has been done since World War Two. While Unifor is working to bring the SWEs into the union as regular full members with full union rights at work, the new leader Jerry Dias did not even respond to her first recommendation about the right to strike between contract negotiations and updating the Rand formula. This is despite the rhetoric of Dias and other leaders about the need to change the way unionism is done in this country and really go on the offensive.
It remains to be seen how Unifor will fulfill the tasks it has set itself in the coming years and how it can be changed by rank and file activists like Hinshelwood, who had this to say to BASICS about how Unifor could address these issues and the consequences that will result it if doesn’t:
They have to listen to the dissidents instead of trying to shut the dissidents down. The dissidents are speaking for a lot of people and a lot of people are afraid to speak within their unions because you get the ‘union shun’. And you have to acknowledge where you’ve gone wrong and you have to acknowledge what people are angry about and address that situation. Sometimes it’s okay to do some cheerleading, but not when we’re facing losing our country. When you drive workers down, your social structure declines, your infrastructure declines and your civil liberties disappear too.
The word “Oshkimaadzig” refers to the “New People” of the Seven Fires Anishinaabek Prophecy, the people who were prophesied to be the ones who would pick up the remnants of their traditional ways of life and values long repressed by colonialism, and by reclaiming these values they will begin to unite all peoples for the survival of humanity and Mother Earth.
Oshkimaadzig Unity Camp is located in traditional Wendat (“Huron”) land, and since the genocidal dispersal of the Wendat by the French and the wars that forced them to flee the area in the mid 17th century, the Anishinaabe have been the keepers of the eastern door, recognized by the Three Fires Confederacy (Odawa, Potawatamie, and Ojibwe). This land also falls within a number of treaties amongst indigenous people and between indigenous nations and European settlers, including the Two Row Wampum, the ‘One Dish, One Spoon’ Treaty, the Beaver Belt, the Haudenosaunee-Anishinaabek Friendship Belt, the 1764 Fort Niagara Silver Chain Covenant, and the 24 Nations Belt.
Oshkimaadzig Unity Camp is located in ‘Awenda Provincial Park’ two hours north of Toronto in the Penetanguishene Peninsula and is by the Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood (ACTION), Oshkimaadzig.org, a member organization of the chapter of the International League of People’s Struggles in Canada.
Video produced by BASICS Community News Service (BASICSnews..ca).
by Noaman G. Ali
“We said we would be willing—and this was just dialogue, wasn’t offers passed back and forth—that we’d take this,” Bob Kinnear makes a zero with his fingers, “provided that the Toronto Transit Commission maintains the level of service.”
But according to Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 (ATU 113), which represents over 10,000 TTC workers, the City’s negotiators rejected the proposition during bargaining last year.
“You know why? Because for Mayor Ford it’s all about an ideology that they have.” Rob Ford and his crew would rather give a pay increase, so that in the end they can blame tax increases on the workers.
For our second feature interview, we talk with Canadian Auto Workers Local 27 President Tim Carrie about the situation of locked-out Caterpillar workers in London, Ontario.Featuring music from the Consumer Goods – ‘Hockey Night in Afghanada’ off their 2008 album, The Anti-imperial Cabaret.
Click here to link to podcast or listen to the interview directly from the Mp3 player at the bottom of your BASICSnews.ca window.Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a research associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization, (GlobalResearch.ca) an independent research and media institute organization and one of the world’s leading sources of news and analysis for geopolitics. Nazemroaya is also a sociologist and an award-winning writer, specializing on the Middle East and Central Asia, with numerous contributions to ALJazeera, Russian TV, and Press TV. Nazemroaya was also on the ground in Libya reporting live for multiple media outlets as NATO conducted its merciless bombing of that country’s civilians and infrastructure. Nazemroaya has published numerous pieces on the geopolitics of the looming U.S. war against Iran.
On this episode of Radio Basics (December 19, 2011), Steve da Silva and Kabir Joshi-Vijayan interview Russell Diabo, the spokesperson of Defenders of the Land and the Editor/Publisher of First Nations Strategic Bulletin.
Click here to link to podcast or listen to the interview directly from the Mp3 player at the bottom of your BASICSnews.ca window.
An Interview with D’Bi Young, creator of The Sankofa Trilogy
by Corrie Sakaluk
D’Bi Young’s powerful Sankofa Trilogy played at Tarragon Theatre between October 22 and December 4. This interview was originally conducted for The Dialog, reproduced for BASICS at the request of the author.
What were the seeds from which the Sankofa Trilogy first started to grow?
I think the seed was seeing my mother perform when I was about 5 years old in Jamaica, at the Jamaica School of Drama, which is the school that is at the centre of Word!Sound!Powah. My mother was doing a one-woman show directed by Honor Ford Smith, who is actually now a professor at York University teaching community arts. So Honor Ford Smith was in Jamaica at the time teaching at the Jamaica School of Drama, and my mother was one of the students there between 1982 and 1985. I will never forget being in the audience and watching my mom, only my mom, on stage. It was a silent play about a woman living alone in her apartment, her routine and how she experienced her aloneness, and it had such a profound effect on me. That’s one thing that pops up to me.
The next thing that pops up to me is that I watched this film called The Three Faces of Eve, I must have been 8 years old. That film was a black and white film about a woman who was schizophrenic and she had three personalities, and I don’t know why that stuck with me, but for some reasons I’ve never gotten that film out of my mind. That film always comes back to me. So those two experiences were seeds that were planted in my young impressionable mind long ago. Read more…
On Monday, November 7, BASICS correspondent Steve da Silva linked up with the Filipino-American MC Bambu for an interview after the Blue Scholars show in downtown Toronto. Bambu is from Los Angeles and has been producing for almost a decade with the likes of MC Kiwi, DJ Phatrick, Power Struggle and many others. In the Fall of 2010, Bambu, through Soul Assassins, released the “Los Angeles, Philippines” mixtape with the legendary DJ Muggs (Cypress Hill). Before 2011, the mixtape had already hit over 100,000 downloads. His LPs include ‘self entitled’, ‘exact change’, ‘i scream bars for the people’, and ‘paper cuts’. Here’s what the ‘Kasama’ [comrade in Tagalog] had to say to BASICS…
Steve da Silva / BASICS: How does the national liberation movement in the Philippines relate to the music you’re producing in America?
Bambu: There’s a clear line between the two. Like I said on stage, all my music really does is raise the awareness of the people and the consciousness of the masses. It’s a tool used to organize. The goal is to get those people who like the music to actually go out and organize. That’s where I separate myself from the actual work that’s going on.
Now, if you wanna talk about my organizing, then yeah, I am also doing work in organizing and educating folks, especially within the youth sector, basically building a bridge between what’s going on here and what’s going on back in the Philippines. What we like to say is connecting the ‘micro’ to the ‘macro’. We’re trying to get the youth we’re working with – youth of colour, Filipino youth – to bridge what’s going on in the community with what’s going on back at home and around the globe. Read more…
On Saturday, November 19, 2011, BASICS caught up with John ‘Mac’ Gaskins, the Minister of Information of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP)‡, at a speaking event at Burning Books in Buffalo, New York. After spending nearly half his life in prison, the young Panther is now out on the streets and is part of a new generation of young revolutionaries carrying forward the legacy of the original Black Panther Party in the present. (Radio Basics also interviewed John ‘Mac’ Gaskins back on October 3, 2011 about ongoing practices of torture that he and others have experienced at Red Onion State Prison in Virginia. To download that interview, click here). Steve da Silva / BASICS: You were telling us tonight how you spent half of your life in prison – after catching some cases when you were younger. Here you are now, 31 years of age and on the outside as revolutionary and a New Afrikan Black Panther. Can you briefly recount how you arrived at where you’re at today?
John ‘Mac’ Gaskins: Well, my story doesn’t differ much from most guys raised in urban settings. I’m from Richmond, Virginia, and born into a single-parent home. My mother is from the bottom of the working-class. As a kid, I would watch my mother go to work, working two jobs that were never enough to secure the basic necessities for me and my sister. So early on I decided that I had a distinct role to fulfill. At about the age of ten, I had this friend who taught me how to go into stores, open up the food products and eat and drink until we got full and exited the store. But eventually, I realized that this wasn’t doing anything to help my family. So I actually started stealing products, bringing them out of the store and to my family so we could prepare meals. As this went on, the activity just progressed until I got into robberies. But I had certain moral compunctions from the start though. I never robbed a common working-class person, old ladies, anything like that. It was drug dealers, commercial establishments, and people that I felt like they were criminals themselves, either pumping poison into the community or people who have these commercial establishments in the community but don’t live in our communities and are only extracting funds from us. Ultimately, over time though I would take on some traits of an illegitimate capitalist, and this would ultimately lead me to prison at the age of 17.
My incarceration would actually begin before this though. I started going to jail when I was about 14, I spent about 2 ½ years in “Juvie” (Juvenile Detention). So that was preppin’ me for what was coming in the future, these 14 years that I would spend in prison. So ultimately I went to prison and I would endure all the practices that take place there, everything from having my fingers broken to being bit by dogs, to being strapped to a bed for days and being forced to defecate and urinate on myself. I would go without meals for days at a time, my mail was being hindered. Not having access to a telephone. I was at these “Supermax” prisons out in the mountains and I didn’t get visits. My family couldn’t afford to come visit me. I was feeling every ounce of the weight of this system and this was for me where the political education began. Read more…
D’bi Young on new album 333 and the Sankofa Trilogy plays, with updates on Black Liberation Army P.O.W. Robert “Seth” Hayes from Nate Buckley of the National Confederation to Free all Political Prisoners and End Unjust Incarceration
Click the link above for podcast, or listen to this episode in the mp3 player at the bottom of your browser at basicsnews.ca.
On today’s show, we talk to dub poet and mono dramatist African-Jamaican-Canadian D’bi Young about her forthcoming album 333 and the Sankofa Trilogy of plays that are currently being staged at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto. Check her out at http://dbiyoung.com/.
In our feature discussion, we talk to Nate Buckley, organizer with the National Confederation to Free all Political Prisoners and the End Unjust Incarceration about the current status of prisoner of war / political prisoner Robert “Seth” Hayes former member of the Black Liberation Army and Black Panther Party.