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(en) Canada, common cause, Linchpin #17 - Anarchists support striking refuelers at Toronto Island Airport, PAUL M, Toronto

Date Sat, 16 Feb 2013 09:40:15 +0200

The IWW and members of Common Cause Toronto have been hitting the picket lines in support of striking refuelers employed by Porter Fixed Base Operations (FBO) at the Toronto Island airport. The strike has been bravely fought by a mere 22 workers fed up with unsafe working conditions and low wages. ---- Injuries due to poor training and heavy turnover have not been uncommon, and the workers currently earn an abysmally low 12 dollars an hour. As the workers continue their fight against their bosses at Porter, anarchists must keep up the support until the dispute is won. ---- Working with COPE (Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union), a largely white collar union, refuelers have shown tremendous initiative in escalating disruption at the airport in their fight to win a first contract.

The initiative shown by these
workers has been a refreshing change from other
recent labour disputes. Disruptive action has been
consistently hobbled in recent labour disputes in
Ontario. Teachers, librarians, postal workers, and
many others have been hemmed in by a bureaucratic
union machinery adhering to a rigid set of passive
tactics in a failing strategy to broker labour peace.
Unlike in these larger disputes, the recently unionized
Porter workers have shown a willingness to escalate
tactics and to collaborate closely with other militant
workers, including anarchists.

The Porter dispute has presented a unique
opportunity for anarchists to build real relationships
with a large number of workers on the ground, and to
have a voice in the direction of the strike and its tactics.
A recent 4:30am picket on Tuesday, January 22 saw
around a dozen IWW and Common Cause members
come down to the lines in the bitter -18 degree cold.
While at the lines, some wobblies there for the third
time, we witnessed workers stopping some cars going
into staff parking lots for over 10 minutes with very
little encouragement from our group. This type of
delay is rare on picket lines today, with standard
delays being a mere 2 to 3 minutes. Even still, these
exceptional tactics did not satisfy the confrontational
attitude of some workers. As we exchanged names and
numbers we felt heartened that we could collectively
develop new strategies for increased disruption.

On Saturday, January 26, after the sluggish
and demoralizing labour parade organized by the OFL
to the Liberal leadership convention, a large number
of anarchists and other unionists headed to the Island
Airport with the help of the CUPE 966 flying squad
bus. This time, with encouragement from the Porter
workers, we fully blocked the only road into the
airport causing serious disruption. The picket line
was entirely anarchist, with workers wishing to avoid
the legal ramification they might face, but cheering
us on from the sidelines, many itching to join us. We
were able to hold the line for nearly an hour until cops
finally removed us without arrests. Though this one
off event was clearly effective in slowing things down
at the airport it was still a far cry from what’s necessary
to bring Porter to the table.

It remains to be seen if or when Porter will
come to the table but what is clear is that when they
do anarchists will have a real voice with the workers to
help ensure that a strong contract is demanded. Our
concrete and ongoing support of workers struggle
at the point of production is crucial to developing
militant class consciousness, and what we’ve seen at
Porter is that this type of militancy is often latent in
some sectors of the embattled working class. It is now
up to us to tap the latent desires of the workers to hobble
the smooth working of the airport against a growing
uneasiness by COPE. Though we may eventually burn
our bridges with the COPE higher-ups our goal is to
use a strategy that wins and not be cowed by a labour
movement too sheepish to be remotely effective. After
this fight we hope the connections we’ve built with
the workers, and not COPE, can carry forward into
ongoing work, but it is up to us to make the space
in our organizations necessary to carry the memory
of past fights into new ones. If this is accomplished,
and we don’t lose the connections built in the Porter
dispute, this could be a precedent setting struggle for
Toronto anarchists.
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