Thursday, September 17, 2009

Film maker Michael Moore popped in at the recent Toronto International Film Festival for the premiere of his film 'Capitalism: A Love Story' (any reviews from Molly's readers ?). Rather than just shaking paw, however, Moore did a very "uncelebrity" like thing, he actually used his presence and media clout to promote some workers' struggles up here in the Great Frozen North. Not that celebrities haven't been outspoken in leftist causes before, but these are usually the trendy cause of the week. Moore actually seems to care about the lives and struggles of ordinary people. Here's a Molly purr for Michael.

First of all he used his presence to publicize the United Steelworkers' strike against the Vale Inco company. Here's the story from the Sudbury Star, brought to Molly's attention, of course, by the strike support site Fair Deal Now.
Strikers count on celebrity support:
SHOWTIME: Prominent U. S. filmmaker gets behind Steelworkers
The strike by Vale Inco workers in Greater Sudbury has caught the attention of Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.

Moore invited some of the strikers to the weekend premiere of his newest film Capitalism: A Love Story at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"The mining company's doing quite well," the National Post quoted Moore as saying at a press briefing.

"It's made over $4 billion in the last two years, but they want to cut back on the pension, and they want to stop the profit sharing, and give back, give back, give back, give back.

"It seems very un-Canadian to me, to behave in that manner. So try and maintain yourselves, Canadians. That's all I have to say."

The United Steelworkers union, which represents more than 3,000 workers on the picket line at Vale Inco, is thrilled with Moore's support and the attention it brings to the dispute.

"I think it's terrific that he gave us some of his time," said John Fera, president of Steelworkers Local 6500 in Sudbury.

"He's known for his documentaries and for his social conscience, so I think it's great that he did this," Fera said.

"It's a great thrill for the guys" who had the opportunity to meet Moore, he added.

Moore's new movie, Capitalism: A Love Story, examines the economic meltdown and subsequent bailout of Wall Street. The film calls on the audience to reject America's particular brand of free-market economics in favour of a system based on the ideals of democracy. The film is due in Canadian theatres on Oct. 2.

Meanwhile, the Steelworkers union has launched a radio campaign leading up to a rally on Saturday, all in an effort to shore up community support. The radio ads follow newspaper advertising done locally by the Steelworkers.

"We just want to make sure everybody understands that this fight isn't just between Local 6500 and Vale," said Fera. "The whole community is going to bear the brunt of the outcome of this strike. It just means so much to everyone. We wanted to keep it on the front burner."

The ads also publicize an international and community support rally taking place from 11 a. m. to 3 p. m. at Sudbury Community Arena on Saturday.

The international guests from countries such as Brazil, Mexico, U. K., Switzerland and the U. S. will be at the rally.

The union is also getting more support from Nickel Belt NDP MP Claude Gravelle this week.

Gravelle is meeting today (Tuesday) at 10 a. m. with Brazilian Ambassador Paulo Cordeiro de Andrade Pinto at the Brazilian Embassy in Ottawa. He plans to discuss concerns about Vale Inco's operations in Canada.

"We find this company is not negotiating in good faith. We just want to talk to him about how Vale treats its employees in foreign countries," Gravelle said. "This is not only a problem in Canada. It's a problem right across the world wherever Vale has a company."

Gravelle said he also plans to talk about comments made recently in the media by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva that he wants his government to take control of Vale SA.
"I just want to know what their plans are," Gravelle said. "Don't take this to mean that we want to nationalize Vale Inco. That's not what we want to do. I just want to meet with him to see what their plans are."
Well personally I don't think that a nationalized Vale Inco is more likely to treat its employees or the communities in which it operates better than a private one either. Nationalization is not a solution to corporate misbehavior. What it does is switch one powerful employer for an even more powerful one. The threat of such a thing, however, is a great 'mind concentrator' to bring management to the bargaining table earlier. It's a thought.

But back to Michael Moore. Behind the scenes of events such as the Toronto International Film Festival I suspect that there is a certain amount of "understanding" between the local Chamber of Commerce and whatever government agencies are in charge of promoting tourism. In lieu of the fact that the city will be hosting a large gathering of well-heeled artsy fartsy types I am certain that part of this understanding is that there will be a temporary relaxation of drug laws in any city that hosts such an event. It wouldn't do to have Constable O'Malley accidentally creating an international black eye for the city by arresting some rowdy artiste or, especially, busting in on one of the umpteen zillion after hours cocaine parties. Jesus H. Christ no ! Hell, when so many millions of dollars are in play I wouldn't be surprised if there was a certain amount of "paperwork fudging" and some of the "confiscated evidence" wasn't delivered 'courtesy of the City of Toronto' by direct police courier from some station house to the parties. Maybe that's going too far in my suspicions ?

What I do know for sure is that Moore hardly seems to be the sort of guy willing to play a bit part in a real time re-enactment of The Fall of the Roman Empire. I've never seen a photo of the guy where he didn't look like he just stepped off the Greyhound after a 36 hour bus ride. He appears to be the sort of guy that, if he were to come to Canada to find "vice" it would be for the opportunity to actually drink real beer. After being gracious to the Steelworkers Moore was hit up by another group, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada to come down and support their picket line against Cadillac Fairview at the Toronto Dominion Centre.(Molly has blogged on this long running strike before). Damned if he didn't show up to give his support to them as well. See the article below from their website and its link to their facebook group.

I gotta hand it to Moore. He seems to have his priorities right. One can never be sure that the private life of a celebrity accords with their public persona, but I really have to say that the all too often irritating (to ordinary people) 'left" could take more than a dozen pages from Moore's book, whether it be image or substance. In any case I hope that Michael got to go down and have a few real beers with the guys and girls after his stint on the line. Any bets on what he drank while he visited Toronto ? But on to the story....
Locked out CF workers draw Michael Moore:
TORONTO (September 15, 2009) -- As he entered the Toronto International Film Festival this week, filmmaker Michael Moore was welcomed by locked-out Cadillac Fairview workers, who have asked him to come and speak at their picket line. See the
YouTube video on the workers’ Facebook page:

The 61 Toronto Dominion Centre employees, who were locked out and then fired by their employer, Cadillac Fairview, need your support too. Click here to support the locked-out members of CEP Local 2003 by sending this letter by regular mail (pdf to
print - ) or cut and paste
( ) it to send by e-mail to the President and CEO of Cadillac Fairview: . Please
be sure to sign your name.

Cadillac Fairview Corporation announced the mass termination of all of its maintenance and skilled trades employees at the TD Centre in mid-July. The members of CEP Local 2003 were locked out by the company on June 14 after it tabled a final offer that proposed to eliminate employees, force workers to re-apply for their jobs, restrict union representation and undermine bargaining rights.

After four weeks of a lockout, the company sent a letter to all locked-out employees stating that it was pleased with the contractor hired to do the union members’ work and is terminating all 61 employees, including those on sick leave and long-term disability.

The workers are long-term employees with an average of more than 20 years’ service.
“A number of you have committed your entire working life to this employer and to be
tossed out on the street and terminated as if you had no rights whatsoever is outrageous
and we won’t stand for it,” CEP’s Ontario Regional Vice-President Bob Huget told a
rally in support of the workers, Aug. 27th. Click here ( ) to watch the video of the August 27th rally.

Cadillac Fairview has assets of $16 billion and is this last fiscal year was its most lucrative ever with nearly $1 billion in profits. Company properties include the TD Centre, Eaton Centre, Pacific Centre, Sherway Gardens, to name a few. The company is wholly owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. (Interesting-Molly )

At the rally, V-P Huget praised the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario for their unwavering solidarity and efforts to convince the CF Board of Directors to get back to the bargaining table.

Huget noted that the entire Toronto labour community has really come together, including CUPE 79 and 416, the Toronto District Labour Council, the OFL, OPSEU, NUPGE, the Canadian Media Guild, USW and the NDP. “These brothers and sisters regularly support us on the picket line and offer their valuable time and resources,” he said.

Local 2003’s Shop Steward, Steve Craig has learned one very important thing out of all this -- “albeit at great cost to the group and me,” he said. “Although it may be your skills and abilities that land you a job, if the employer decides for whatever reason to toss you out on the street it will be solidarity that gets you back inside to the bargaining table.”

In September, the CEP and CF are scheduled to attend the hearing before the OLRB on
the bad faith bargaining charges brought by the union.

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