. The following three articles -- on the Canadian postal and teachers' strikes and on the management intimidation campaign at Highland Park post office in the Detroit area -- are from Detroit Workers Voice #17, November 23, 1997 (edited for web publication). An article discussing what happened to the postal strike appeared in CV #16. DWV is published by the Detroit Marxist-Leninist Study Group.

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Canadian postal workers go on strike

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. 45,000 Canadian postal workers launched a strike on November 19, shutting down the postal system. The efforts of the management of Canada Post to drive down postal workers is something we U.S. postal workers are only too familiar with. Canada Post is trying to eliminate jobs, replace career jobs with part- time jobs (casuals), lengthen letter carrier routes, and drive down wages and benefits. Here our union leaders tell us that nothing can be done to protect ourselves against postal management except to utilize a grievance procedure that is a joke and accept contracts decided by arbitrators who couldn't care less about our steadily declining conditions. The Canadian postal strike shows that another way is possible. It shows that workers have the potential to take powerful actions against postal management. If we want decent contracts, then we must prepare for such mass actions. If we want to be able to fight back effectively on the daily crimes of postal management, we must begin to band together for all sorts of collective actions.

. While the rank-and-file postal workers in Canada have dug in for a serious fight, the leaders of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) are trying to reach a dirty back-room deal with management. They are indicating that if the Canadian government passes "back-to-work" legislation, they will most likely capitulate to it and end the strike they called. Canadian government officials have already threatened that such legislation is imminent. Meanwhile, CUPW negotiators have been busy trimming their demands. The have slashed their original modest wage demands. As well, they are willing to let an arbitrator decide the fate of letter carrier routes which plays into management's hands. It is far from clear that Canadian postal management will accept these concessions. Seeing the wavering of the union officials, they are pressing for complete surrender.

. So while the Canadian postal workers have shown their potential might, they also face a very difficult situation. In the U.S., postal workers have no right to strike while in Canada they do. Yet the "right-to-strike" in Canada does not prevent the government from eliminating this right with legislation if the strike is effective. Such is the lack of democratic rights for workers in capitalist democracies such as the U.S. and Canada where the governmental institutions are in the hands of the wealthy corporations. As well, Canadian and U.S. postal workers see their struggles undermined by their so-called labor leaders. The fate of the Canadian postal strike will be in jeopardy unless the rank-and-file can makes its will felt and avoid being railroaded into a poor settlement by the CUPW bureaucrats.

. Postal and other workers in the U.S. should take to heart the lessons of the strike. The Canadian strike gives us a glimpse of what our own potential power could be. It shows that another way exists besides just "taking it" or trusting our fate to the rotten grievance procedure and callous arbitrators. We have the possibility of taking our fate into our own hands. Our weapon is that of collective action. To utilize this weapon means we must begin to build links among the rank-and-file and not depend on the frightened union officials.

Solidarity with the Canadian postal workers!
Get organized to resist the attacks of the USPS!

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Management intimidation campaign at
Highland Park post office

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. All across the country, postal management is piling up the workload on letter carriers. DPS automation has been ruining carriers with huge workload increases on their own routes and requirements to carry parts of other routes (splits) most every day. It's no exaggeration to say that a carrier's workload has doubled in the last couple of years. In order to increase workloads, management invents new "standards" every day. In so doing, they constantly violate any rules and regulations. When carriers try to work at a pace that will preserve their health and safety, management "writes them up" with disciplinary charges and threatens to fire them. With these threats, and with no effective union protection, a number of carriers are working through their breaks and lunch period to avoid being disciplined.

. Recently, Detroit Workers' Voice has received some news from Highland Park station that illustrates management's rampage against letter carriers. Management recently issued a disciplinary measure equivalent to a two-week suspension (NTOL 3) because a letter carrier could not carry a route plus an hour's work off another route within the normal 8-hour day.Management has declared that the next time this happens, the letter carrier will be fired.

, Making these charges especially outrageous is the fact that the full route that the carrier worked that day was not his own route, but one he was completely unfamiliar with. It is virtually impossible for a carrier to make standard time on a route they are unfamiliar with. Indeed, when a carrier is permanently assigned to a new route, management allows up to 30 days for the carrier to meet the standards of the route. In this case, the carrier was only substituting on a new route for that day. Yet, he was "written up" for "failure to follow instructions. "

. Actually at no time did the carrier disobey instructions. In fact in the charges filed against the carrier, management admits that the carrier obeyed every directive given by management. When the supervisor who issued the disciplinary measure was questioned about this, all she could reply was that she was upset that the carrier was not able to perform as well on a route he never carried as on the route he normally carries. In other words, the problem was not really disobeying orders, but unreasonable management expectations about what a letter carrier's work load should be.

. Management's unfair attack on this letter carrier is aimed at intimidating all letter carriers at the station. Very often, workloads or poor weather conditions force letter carriers to phone back to the station and ask for permission to go into overtime. If the disciplinary measure is upheld, any carrier requesting extra time would face the threat of being punished. Likewise any carrier assigned to a new route would be threatened.

. These disciplinary charges are just a small part of the management reign of terror. Letter carriers must band together to resist. Other who receive this leaflet should find ways to express their disgust with postal management's harassment of letter carriers.

Massive two-week teachers' strike in
Ontario, Canada

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. On October 27th, 126,000 teachers in Ontario, Canada launched a two-week strike against the provincial government's assault on education and the teachers' collective bargaining rights. The conservative Harris government is pushing these attacks through legislation called Bill 160. This strike action was a resounding reply to this bill and began the largest teachers' strike in the history of North America. The strike effectively shut down the primary and secondary school system for some 2.1 million students. Janitors, secretaries and teachers' assistants refused to cross picket lines.

. Today, however, the strike is over as the provisions of Bill 160 go ahead. What happened? Did the strike fail because it was beaten down by government police actions? No. Did the rank-and-file grow weary of the strike and was unable to continue? No. The strike was killed by the weak- kneed leaderships of the five striking unions. On November 6, as a rally of 15,000 teachers and their supporters demonstrated the rank-and-file enthusiasm to fight the bill, the leaders of three of the five protesting unions announced they were ending their protest and returning to work. The other two unions quickly followed suit. What makes this betrayal by the union leadership especially galling is that the Harris government had just failed to get a court injunction to force an end to the strike. Had the injunction been granted, the success of the struggle would have depended on defying it. But as it turns out, the union bureaucrats surrendered voluntarily. What a disgrace!

, The capitulation of three of the union leaderships is a clear indication of the meek nature of the trade union officialdom in Canada whose overall class collaborationist stand is similar to that of the labor traitors of "our" AFL-CIO officials. Many teachers expressed outrage at the stand of their so- called labor leaders. Unfortunately, they were unable to organize themselves to overcome this betrayal. The task of building fighting organizations independent of the union bureaucrats is a pressing task for teachers and workers on both sides of the border.

Canadian workers are stirring

. While the workers in Ontario generally remain under the sway of the labor bureaucrats, they have nevertheless begun to stir. The Harris government, and the wealthy capitalists it represents, are in the midst of a big offensive to drive down the working class as a whole, making it easier for employers to smash strikes and fatten their profits. While Canadian workers suffer double- digit unemployment, Harris is gutting social programs at every chance. This is the heart of the Harris "Common Sense Revolution. "

. But the workers in Ontario have a different idea of what common sense is than the fat-cat business interests and their government stooges. There have been a series of major worker actions against the Harris government's program in recent months. Only ten days before the teachers walked out, workers shut down some 200 workplaces for one day in protest in Windsor and its suburbs including the city transit system, the "Big 3" auto plants, and the casinos.Teachers also joined this action and the school system in Windsor and surrounding Essex county was shut down that day. As well, the mass protests of workers has recently forced the Harris government to back off its efforts to impose anti-strike legislation on the public sector workers.

Bill 160

. The teachers' strike was a just response to Bill 160. The bill would restructure school financing so that the government can continue slashing the already-thin education budget, this time lopping off another seven percent. By the government's own conservative estimates, the new budget cuts aim at reducing the number of teachers by 7,500. The bill would also help increase the percentage of non-certified teachers and non-union employees. Another provision would eliminate part of the preparation time used by teachers for class preparations, counseling students, etc. As well, the teachers' current rights to fight for better teaching and learning conditions would be replaced by government decrees on these matters. The Harris government pretends that its decrees will provide more uniform conditions among schools. For example, it claims to want a smaller uniform class size and chides teachers for allegedly bargaining for larger classes. Actually, teachers have been fighting for smaller classes while it's the Harris budget cuts that have led to larger class sizes. The government budget-cutting shows that they are aiming to lower educational conditions, not improve them. Meanwhile, the Harris regime has floated the idea of moving to a voucher system in education which would result in wholesale inequalities between rich and poor schools.

Class solidarity

. The situation faced by the workers in Ontario looks very familiar to workers in the U.S. We too are faced with an employer's offensive to drive down our living standards and working conditions. We too see the government slashing the social safety net and using its courts and cops to put down resistance to their plans. In the U.S., the war on the workers is not merely a Republican plot, but a bipartisan effort as the Democrats. Likewise in Ontario, the allegedly "pro-labor" New Democratic Party which preceded the Harris conservatives took up the conservative social budget axe with a vengeance.

. The large workers actions that have hit Ontario in response provide a glimpse of the potential power that the workers have. Workers don't have to be passive victims ground up by big business and their political representatives. But in order to really be able to fight, the rank-and-file is faced with the task of organizing itself as a force that can operate independently of the trade union misleaders. The task of reorganizing our class as an independent fighting force is going to be protracted. But even small steps in this direction today are what is needed to pave the way for the mighty class organizations of the future.


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