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Ontario – stop the cuts, stop the victimizations

JANUARY 8, 1996 – In London, Ontario on December 11, 40,000 unionized workers stayed away from their jobs illegally in a coordinated protest against Mike Harris and his Tory cutbacks agenda.

It was a labour mobilization on a provincial scale that we have not seen since the 1983 strikes against the Social Credit government in BC. The last national mobilization was in 1976 when Canadian workers led by the Canadian Labour Congress organized a one-day strike against Pierre Trudeau’s wage controls policy.

In weather that was minus 40 with the wind chill, 16,000 marched through the streets of London, Ontario chanting: “It’s not as cold as Harris!” and “Hey Mike, hey Mike – Province-wide general strike.”

The ‘Common Sense Revolution’ – the Tory election program, only half a year old – is being met by a sentiment, tens of thousands deep, that says ‘enough is enough’.

Ford Motors obtained a court injunction banning picketing at the gates of the Talbotville plant. [1] But workers collectively defied the threat and picketed anyway, shutting the plant down. According to The Toronto Star: “Police watched the scene, but did not enforce the court injunction.”[2]

How often have we seen police “watch the scene” with an employer’s injunction in hand while workers stand in front of the factory gates and stop production? Even during legal strike actions, cops routinely step in to ensure that production continues.

According to Ford officials, the company lost $36-million in production that day alone.[3] If five corporations paid the government at that rate, the provincial deficit would be paid off in less than a year. Ten corporations would do it in less than six months.

The action and solidarity which took place on December 11 shows what is possible. It shows a glimmer of how we can stop the Tories’ war on workers and the poor.

But the employers want to ensure that no more such action takes place. Three auto makers – General Motors, Ford and CAMI Automotive – threatened CAW with legal action in the event of a walkout.[4]

It is no coincidence that CAW is the target of these threats. It has led the push for a general strike in Ontario.

This is nothing more than victimization. The way to fight these victimizations is the same as fighting the cuts – strike action. If the targeted unions were to pull their members off the job until these companies dropped their suits they would undoubtedly draw the support of other workers.

© 1996 Paul Kellogg. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.


[1] Randall Scotland, “GM, Ford Hit by Protest,” The Financial Post, December 12, 1995.

[2] Jack Lakey and Edwards, “Mass Action Slows City Life to Trickle,” Toronto Star, December 12, 1995.

[3] Casey Mahood and Greg Keenan, “London Protest Costs Millions in Lost Production,” The Globe and Mail, December 12, 1995.

[4] Tony Van Alphen, “Don’t Walk, London Workers Told,” Toronto Star, December 8, 1995.

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