Friday, October 31, 2008

Sorry, no punctual, penetrating, purulating, punctilious, perfect, practical, poetic political programs today, but rest assured we'll return to our regular channel in the morrow.
Until then have a Happy Halloween, Molly's favourite holiday. Sad to say we only got about 50 or 60 kids at the door, a big drop from last year. This was despite the fact that I spent about 3 weeks decorating the yard. Fewer people seem to have done the yard decoration thing this year, but there were still parents driving the kids around to stop at houses with decorations. Such a difference from the Halloweens of my childhood. No biffies to tip here in the city for one thing.
Ah well, back to the old grind tomorrow.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Molly received the following news release from the Status Campaign, an Ontario based coalition set up to help migrant workers. I personally feel that the tone of the following is too optimistic for two reasons. One is that the Ontario government is merely "looking into" reforms that would better protect migrant workers. The second is that the situation here in Manitoba is far from perfect. There is still a long way to go. no number of laws will do any good if enforcement is patchy at best. Still, take the following as it is.
Finally, of course, there is the question of whether there should be any bars on immigration at all. In a free society there would be no such thing; people would be free to live and work where they please.

Toronto Star article: Ontario eyes ways to help migrant workers‏:
Ontario eyes ways to help migrant workers
Looks to Manitoba which just brought in new rules
Oct 30, 2008
Lesley Ciarula Taylor
Ontario, which has long argued its labour laws protect migrant farmworkers, nannies and others imported here for jobs, is floating the idea of special protection for temporary workers.
People hired through temp agencies were the original focus of possible expanded protections, but now others would also be helped.
If the changes become part of the Employment Standards Act, Ministry of Labour spokesperson Bruce Skeaff said they would cover temporary foreign workers – from those in the food service industry to migrant farm workers to nannies. It would also represent a major update of the act.
In a consultation paper last May the ministry pointed to issues such as agencies that charge fees for finding jobs or if workers go from temporary to full-time work. It also raised questions about regulations and penalties to further protect the 700,000 people in Ontario with temporary jobs. There is currently no deadline for any new legislation.
Ontario has been consulting with Manitoba, where landmark legislation to protect temporary foreign workers has just been passed. The catalyst, said Manitoba Labour and Immigration Minister Nancy Allan,was creating a law to protect young models. Then, 200 workers imported from China to work at Maple Leaf Foods in Brandon were found to have paid $10,000 to recruiters.
The Manitoba law, to be phased in from January to April, will keep track of employers who bring in foreigners on temporary work permits and will license only Canadian recruiters. Even families who hire nannies will have to register.
"The onus is going to be on the employer," said Allan.
If ministry inspectors find a worker has paid for a job or isn't getting the agreed wage or benefits, the employer or recruiter will have to pay it back, said Dave Dyson, director of the employment standards branch in Manitoba and architect of that province's law.
Ontario has long stuck to the idea that its labour laws protect everyone, including temporary foreign workers. Once you're in Ontario, said Skeaff, you're covered by the employment act even if you are illegal. Allan said workers have not been adequately protected. "How do the workers know about the employment standards code? What language can they complain in? These people often come from places where talking to the government isn't so great an idea."
The biggest flaw in employment laws, said Dyson, is that no province knows how many foreigners on temporary work permits arrive or who they are, since Ottawa and the employer bring them in.
Stan Raper of the United Food and Commercial Workers, said: "The Manitoba government gets it. Why not Ontario ? We've been asking that for a fairly long time."

The American election is almost upon us, and those of us in the rest of the world wait to see who will be the new Emperor. Molly has decided to reprint the following intelligent commentary from the Bureau of Public Secrets that came to me in an email today. It pretty well sums up my own view.
The graphic on the left, by the way, is also a good visual summary. I first saw it on the Québec City Voix de Faits blog, and it is originally by the Brazilian artist Latuff and was published on his Tales of the Iraq War site. Here's to the extra thousand words that the picture sums up.

Beyond Voting‏:
Bureau of Public Secrets ( )
Roughly speaking we can distinguish five degrees of "government":
(1) Unrestricted freedom
(2) Direct democracy
(3) Delegate democracy
(4) Representative democracy
(5) Overt minority dictatorship
The present society oscillates between (4) and (5), i.e. between overt minority rule and covert minority rule camouflaged by a facade of token democracy. A liberated society would eliminate (4) and (5) and would progressively reduce the need for (2) and (3). . . .
In representative democracy people abdicate their power to elected officials. The candidates' stated policies are limited to a few vague generalities, and once they are elected there is little control over their actual decisions on hundreds of issues -- apart from the feeble threat of changing one's vote, a few years later, to some equally uncontrollable rival politician. Representatives are dependent on the wealthy for bribes and campaign contributions; they are subordinate to the owners of the mass media, who decide which issues get the publicity; and they are almost as ignorant and powerless as the general public(sometimes more so-Molly) regarding many important matters that are determined by unelected bureaucrats and independent secret agencies. Overt dictators may sometimes be overthrown, but the real rulers in "democratic" regimes, the tiny minority who own or control virtually everything, are never voted in and never voted out. Most people don't even know who they are. . . .
In itself, voting is of no great significance one way or the other (those who make a big deal about refusing to vote are only revealing their own fetishism). The problem is that it tends to lull people into relying on others to act for them, distracting them from more significant possibilities. A few people who take some creative initiative (think of the first civil rights sit-ins) may ultimately have a far greater effect than if they had put their energy into campaigning for lesser-evil politicians. At best, legislators rarely do more than what they have been forced to do by popular movements. A conservative regime under pressure from independent radical movements often concedes more than a liberal regime that knows it can count on radical support. (The Vietnam war, for example, was not ended by electing antiwar politicians, but because there was so much pressure from so many different directions that the prowar president Nixon was forced to withdraw.) If people invariably rally to lesser evils, all the rulers have to do in any situation that threatens their power is to conjure up a threat of some greater evil.
Even in the rare case when a "radical" politician has a realistic chance of winning an election, all the tedious campaign efforts of thousands of people may go down the drain in one day because of some trivial scandal discovered in his (or her) personal life, or because he inadvertently says something intelligent. If he manages to avoid these pitfalls and it looks like he might win, he tends to evade controversial issues for fear of antagonizing swing voters. If he actually gets elected he is almost never in a position to implement the reforms he has promised, except perhaps after years of wheeling and dealing with his new colleagues; which gives him a good excuse to see his first priority as making whatever compromises are necessary to keep himself in office indefinitely. Hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, he develops new interests and new tastes, which he justifies by telling himself that he deserves a few perks after all his years of working for good causes. Worst of all, if he does eventually manage to get a few"progressive" measures passed, this exceptional and usually trivial success is held up as evidence of the value of relying on electoral politics, luring many more people into wasting their energy on similar campaigns to come.
As one of the May 1968 graffiti put it, "It's painful to submit to our bosses; it's even more stupid to choose them!"
--Excerpts from Ken Knabb's "The Joy of Revolution."
The complete text is online at
* * *
My intention in circulating these observations is not to discourage you from voting or campaigning, but to encourage you to go further.
Like many other people, I am delighted to see the Republicans collapsing into well-deserved ignominy, with the likelihood of the Democrats recapturing the presidency and increasing their majorities in Congress.Hopefully the latter will discontinue or at least mitigate some of the more insane policies of the current administration (some of which, such as climate change and ecological devastation, threaten to become irreversible).
Beyond that, I do not expect the Democratic politicians to accomplish anything very significant. Most of them are just as corrupt and compromised as the Republicans. Even if a few of them are honest and well-intentioned,they are all loyal servants of the ruling economic system, and they all ultimately function as cogwheels in the murderous political machine that serves to defend that system.
I have considerable respect and sympathy for the people who are campaigning for the Democratic Party while simultaneously trying to reinvigorate it and democratize it. There are elements of a real grassroots movement there, developing in tandem with the remarkable growth of the liberal-radical blogosphere over the last few years.
But imagine if that same immense amount of energy on the part of millions of people was put into more directly radical agitation, rather than (or in addition to) campaigning for rival millionaires. As a side effect, such agitation would put the reactionaries on the defensive and actually result in more "progressives" being elected. But more importantly, it would shift both the momentum and the terrain of the struggle.
If you put all your energy into trying to reassure swing voters that your candidate is "fully committed to fighting the War on Terror" but that he has regretfully concluded that we should withdraw from Iraq because "our efforts to promote democracy" there haven't been working, you may win a few votes but you have accomplished nothing in the way of political awareness.
In contrast, if you convince people that the war in Iraq is both evil and stupid, they will not only tend to vote for antiwar candidates, they are likely to start questioning other aspects of the social system. Which may lead to them to challenge that system in more concrete and participatory ways.
(If you want some examples, look at the rich variety of tactics used in France two years ago -- .)
The side that takes the initiative usually wins because it defines the terms of the struggle. If we accept the system's own terms and confine ourselves to defensively reacting to each new mess produced by it, we will never overcome it. We have to keep resisting particular evils, but we also have to recognize that the system will keep generating new ones until we put an end to it.
By all means vote if you feel like it. But don't stop there. Real social change requires participation, not representation.
P.O. Box 1044,
Berkeley CA

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Canadian public is exposed to an unending barrage of statements in the media that Medicare isn't functioning well and that we need more private medical clinics to reduce waiting times for various medical procedures. The argument looks good on the surface, but do private clinics really reduce waiting times in the public sector ? The following item from the Nanaimo Daily News suggests that they do not, and it gives the reasons why.

Pundits of the neo-conservative variety expound endlessly on the virtues of the market, and they do so as well when it comes to medical care. No doubt they will be a little less self-confident (at least some of them will) in the wake of the recent banking crisis and market meltdown. Still, in regards to medicine the proponents of a "free market" have always had to ignore a lot to make their case. Their model- the American system- has resulted in the highest per capita outlay on health care related expenses on Earth, and the results have been less than stellar when compared to other jurisdictions. A lot is indeed done. Americans are the most medicated and most surgically treated nation on the planet, but all this busywork has failed to produce the outcomes that less profligate systems have.

Part of the reason for the overmedicalization of the American populace is dealt with in the article below. private practitioners are in an inherent conflict of interest, and it is highly likely that they will err on the side of the most expensive and invasive course of action. This is not to say that they are deliberately dishonest at all. It just that self interest often helps, quite often unconsciously, to weigh the scales when inherently difficult decisions have to be made.

Another reason why market fundamentalism often fails to describe the real world is the lack of recognition that what is being described is an imaginary abstraction where all other things are held constant while either supply or demand change. In the real world prices usually fail to respond to the signals of supply and demand in the rapid fashion that seems academically predictable. This is called the stickiness of prices.

In the case of medicine what is sticky is the supply- of trained medical personnel and their time. The reason that private clinics actually increase waiting times in the public sector is that physicians withdraw their services from the public sector, producing an even greater shortage in that area. It takes many years to train a doctor, and supply is essentially held constant. what goes into one box has to be taken from another. A market cannot respond in a timely fashion in such a situation as the good to be produced- physicians- takes far too long to make to respond to increasing demand. This is also dealt with below.

There is, of course, another model of medical service delivery separate from both the state provided and the private clinic model. The cooperative model is actually an alternative that marries the best of both systems and is superior to both. It's unfortunate that it is rarely mentioned in debates about medical services in Canada. I'll return to this model at the end of this post, but first, the article.

Private clinic, public cash:
Surgical centre sees 62% more business from VIHA between 2006 and 2008
Dustin Walker, Daily News
Published: Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The number of publicly funded surgeries performed at a private clinic in Nanaimo has more than doubled in the past year, as the local hospital grapples with a growing waiting list for procedures.

There were 238 surgeries done at the Seafield Surgical Clinic in 2006-07 at a cost of $148,000 compared to 620 procedures for 2007-08.

The sharp increase is due to Nanaimo's growing population of older people who require a more complex level of care, said Vancouver Island Health Authority spokeswoman Anya Nimmon.

VIHA signed a five-year deal with a number of private clinics, including Seafield, in late 2006 in an effort to reduce waiting lists for day procedures, and to free up hospital operating rooms for longer, often more complicated inpatient procedures, such as cancer and hip and knee replacement surgeries.

Procedures to treat cataracts or hernias are among those performed at the clinic, said Nimmon.

But a year-long study of the effect of private clinics on Canada's public health care system released earlier this month says wait times are longest in areas where private clinics take personnel from the public system.

"We haven't seen any evidence that private clinics are making any contributions to reducing waiting times," said Colleen Fuller, a health policy researcher with the B.C. Health Coalition, who worked on the report entitled Eroding Public Medicare: Lessons and Consequences of For-Profit Health Care Across Canada.

"Although they may feel they are alleviating pressure on the public system, in fact they are piggy-backing on the public system."

Fuller said because there are a limited number of medical professionals, when they choose to work in private clinics wait times increase at public facilities. "It's not a criticism to say they have to get a return on their investment, that's the way the market works, but it's not supposed to be the way the health care system works."

She added that there are also questions around conflict of interest and whether allowing clinics to perform publicly funded procedures influence a doctor's judgement about where or even if a patient receives surgery.

Fuller said there is a movement worldwide to provide more procedures on an out-patient basis rather than in hospital. This creates a stronger market for private clinics looking to pick up work from the public sector.

Nanaimo seniors advocate June Ross thinks Nanaimo Regional General Hospital needs to find other ways to manage their waiting lists instead of relying on the private sector.

"You've got to improve the existing system, and not do it by using private clinics," she said. "It erodes our existing system."

But the Ministry of Health says health authorities purchase services from private clinics in order to ensure patients receive timely access to needed surgeries. Less than 2% of publicly funded surgeries performed in 2006/07 were at private clinics.

"Using the private sector to enhance the province's capacity to deliver timely surgical services makes sense as the demands on our health system continue to grow," reads a statement from the ministry.

B.C. Health Minister George Abbott told Canwest News Service that the Canadian Health Coalition study is the work of unions and the NDP who don't want the health-care system to modernize.

Repeated calls to Surgical Centres Inc, which operates Seafield, were not returned.
As I said above there is a third way besides the state controlled public hospital system and the private clinic model. The cooperative or community clinic model is associated in the Canadian mind with the province of Saskatchewan, but the earliest cooperative clinic was in fact set up in Québec. At the present time that province is still far more advanced than other Canadian provinces with the majority of cooperative health clinics in the country. There are even other services provided by other "medically related" coops in Québec such as ambulance coops, home care coops and even funeral coops. People in that province have seen the coop model as being useful and timely, and they have joined in far greater numbers than elsewhere. In many ways this is reminiscent of earlier times, before the welfare state, when ordinary people insured themselves against the vagaries of life via a network of mutual benefit societies. As the limits of statist welfare become more apparent people are returning to the cooperative model.
Not that the model is restricted to La Belle Province. As a recent (August 2008) report from the federal Cooperatives Secretariat titled Canada Health Care Cooperatives says this system is becoming gradually more popular across the country. This report gives snapshots of the movement from across the country,from PEI, Québec, Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and BC. What this shows is that the move to cooperative health care is growing, and there must be reasons for this.
The cooperative model is quite simple. A group of people form a non-profit coop, paying a membership fee that entitles them to the services of the coop. The organization hires personnel and either rents or constructs facilities. The members have open access to the services provided by the facility. What are the reasons why this is attractive ? Here are a few that come to mind.
***Cost savings. As the article from the Nanaimo Daily News points out there is an increasing move away from hospital facilities to outpatient treatment for many procedures due to the rising costs of hospital treatment. Many procedures are far less costly when done outside of a hospital, and cooperative clinics are just as good as private offices for delivering such services.
Coop clinics have a further advantage over private medical offices in terms of cost savings in that the physicians and other staff are usually on salary rather than being paid on a fee for service basis. In the end this means that fewer unnecessary procedures are done as there is no incentive for such things. The government report mentioned above makes the observation that cooperative clinics are better at saving revenue than not just hospitals but also private clinics as well. Coop clinics also often offer a range of services, depending upon the economics of scale, that only the largest group practices in the for-profit sector could offer.
***Convenience. Modern medicine is highly fragmented, and entry into the system often involves multiple visits to multiple offices and other facilities. The cooperative model often hires not just physicians but other health care professionals as well, and dealing with a problem in a cooperative will more often be "one-stop shopping" than it is in either the private or public systems. The economy of scale afforded by the cooperative model also means that high patient volumes can be shared out amongst several physicians, and waiting times are thereby reduced without the detrimental tendency to push patient volume at the expense of detailed attention that can occur in a fee-for service private clinic.
***Patient control. Entrance into the public system means a massive surrender of personal autonomy, and even private clinics demand a great degree of deference to the doctor/owner. While one can "vote with one's feet" in a private system the available options may be either quite limited or even non-existent. For the ordinary citizen the details of the publicly owned medical system are, given their inherent size and centralization, far beyond any democratic control whatsoever. Problems with the system have to be addressed through a lengthy and opaque political process. In the cooperative system the patients are the owners, and the scale of the organization means that democratic control is far easier than elsewhere. Problems can more easily be corrected. It is also a fact that the concerns and needs of patients are not necessarily those of either a private practitioner nor,especially a medical bureaucracy and their political masters. The cooperative system puts the patient/owner in the centre of policy setting.
***Community Empowerment. Neither the public nor private sector puts the needs of a community front and centre. It is the case that cooperatives are often formed to provide the services that both private and public sectors think are not "cost-efficient" but that a local community thinks have priority. The location of a medical facility is not just a benefit to the patients involved but also to the surrounding community in general. This is especially true when the team approach of the clinic leads it to address collective social problems in the neighbourhood, problems that are automatically ignored by both public and private sectors. The existence of a coop also builds community just by getting people together, and this sort of benefit shouldn't be downplayed.
***Quality of Medicine. As previously mentioned coops can provide the sort of team approach that only the largest of private group practices can provide. By their informal nature they are also less bureaucratic than the public sector, and poor outcomes and practices can be more easily identified and corrected without the petty politics involved in large organizations such as the public medical system. As also previously mentioned the cooperative model frees the physician from the pressing need to increase patient volume at the expense of good medicine. This means not just greater attention to detail and diagnosis but also far fewer unnecessary interventions. All of which makes good outcomes more likely.
There are undoubtedly many other advantages to the cooperative model that I haven't mentioned above.What is plain is that the limitations of both the welfare state approach and the free market "alternative" are becoming plainer and plainer in the case of medical services, and the cooperative model offers a reasonable alternative that combines the best of both systems.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

To be or not to be in Montreal for next year's fourth annual Anarchist Theatre Festival. Got a play up your sleeve ? Looking for the adulation of the audience ? Think you have at least one great performance in you ? maybe the following is for you.
WANTED: PLAYS FOR MONTREAL'S 4th Annual Anarchist Theatre Festival May 11-14, 2009:
Montreal's fourth annual International Anarchist Theatre Festival is seeking submissions of anarchist theatre pieces to be staged May 11 - 14th, 2009. We are looking for theatre pieces in English or French, from 5 to 60 minutes long, about anarchists, anarchist ideas and history, or any subject related to anarchism including anti-state, against capitalism, racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. We will consider plays or monologues that are original work, ones that have already been performed, or that have been written by anarchists (historical or contemporary).
---- In the past, the festival has staged work by members of The Living Theatre, The Bread & Puppet Theatre, Monique Surel, author of Au temps de l'anarchie, un théâtre du combat, Nicole Mourer, Norman Nawrocki, Joseph Shragge, etc. Last year's festival drew 400 people each night.
The festival is part of Montreal's annual Festival of Anarchy that leads up to the city's 10th annual Anarchist Bookfair, May 16 & 17, 2009, the largest anarchist event in North America.
All work performed is without remuneration. The Festival will provide publicity, an appropriate indoor venue, plus a guaranteed interested audience. All proceeds from ticket sales are used to cover event expenses and for staging future Festivals.
If interested, please send a synopsis, the script or script excerpts, a bio/resumé, a DVD or video (or link to on-line clips) of the piece, reviews of past work, your technical requirements, an artists' vision statement, and explain why your proposal would fit in the Festival. If you want your materials returned, please send a SASE envelope with sufficient funds for postage.
NO LATER THAN January 1, 2009 to either:
or, mail to:
@ Theatre Festival,
c/o S. Laplage,
6797, rue de Normanville,
Montréal, Quebec,
H2S 2C2

Here from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) are two more events coming up shortly down Toronto way.

Two Important Upcoming Events‏:
!!** please forward widely **!!
1. TOMORROW- Picket at CKLN -- Illegal AGM: Demand Re-Instatement of Dismissed Programmers
2. NEXT WEDNESDAY- Algonquins of Barriere Lake: Toronto Public Event
Freedom of the media violated at CKLN! No to Right Wing Censorship! - Take Back Our Radio Association
Wednesday, October 29th7 pm
Oakham House, Room G
Gould and Church Streets, Ryerson Campus
The crisis of governance at CKLN Campus/Community Radio continues to escalate. The illegal of Board of Directors has called an Annual General meeting:
Financial Report
Union negotiations
Election of Community Reps to the Board of Directors
Wednesday, October 29th
7 pm
Oakham House, Room G
Gould and Church Streets, Ryerson Campus
Station Manager Mike Phillips has called this meeting. As “dismissed”volunteers and community supporters, we strongly object to this Meeting for these reasons:
*Mike Phillips, Interim Station Manager, has no legal authority to call a CKLN Annual General Meeting, because he was democratically voted out of office by an overwhelming 90% majority in a non-confidence motion on January 23, 2008 at a Special General Meeting called by the membership in accordance with CKLN by-laws.
Nevertheless Phillips and a right wing clique have occupied the radio station from January until now and are violating the mandate of the station to be an inclusive and progressive station and a voice for marginalized communities in Toronto.
*Programming has deteriorated as indicated by the failure of this illegal board to raise adequate money at the recent Fund fest and the withholding of the student levy to the station by Ryerson Students Union.
*At previous meetings Metro Police have been employed to bar the new board and its supporters from participating. We intend to challenge this exclusion on October 29th.
*We therefore ask all “dismissed” CKLN volunteer programmers, hosts and staff (35 so far) and concerned community supporters of CKLN and Ryerson students to attend the Annual General Meeting Wednesday October 29th at 7pm. Our purpose is to publicize and protest against this meeting as illegitimate and biased, a mockery of the democratic process, a complete sham! Signed
Catherine Holliday 416 533 6630
Owen Leach
(Dismissed volunteers and community supporters)
OPIRG – Toronto presents...
*Blockade: Algonquins Defend the Forest, 1989-2008*:
*Panel discussion and film screening*
WEDNESDAY, November 5, 7:00pm, 2008
OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), Room # 2-211
University of Toronto
252 Bloor Street W (@ St. George Subway Station)
Donations encouraged
Hear from Barriere Lake Algonquin community representatives, following an intense summer of marches on Ottawa, sustained calls for public support,protests in front of Premier Charest's office, an occupation of local MP Lawrence Cannon's office, and culminating in a one-day blockade of Highway 117 that resulted in 9 arrests and the deployment of riot police and tear gas. A short film of the recent blockades will be screened.
Since the Department of Indian Affairs ousted their Customary Chief and Council in March 2008 and used the Surete du Quebec to forcibly impose the authority of a minority community faction, the Algonquins have been organizing to roll-back the quiet coup d'etat. They are campaigning to make the government honour a number of agreements, including the Trilateral, a internationally praised land co-management and resource-revenue sharing deal the Algonquins signed with Canada and Quebec in 1991. It remains unimplemented.
Community spokespeople from Barriere Lake: Norman Matchewan and Marylynn Poucachiche are teachers in Barriere Lake's Algonquin elementary school and Barriere Lake's youth spokespeople.
***Donations of money are encouraged to support the community's campaign –they need money for gas to travel. Click here for a full list of community needs and to make an online donation:
For more information Contact :
Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG)
Research – Education – Action on Social and Environmental Issues
Dear Friends and Allies,
On November 5th, OPIRG and the Barriere Lake Solidarity will be hosting an event Norman Matchewan and Marylynn Poucachiche who are community members and elementary school teachers from the Algonquin Barriere Lake community. Norman and Marylynn will be here to show video footage of past and recent actions by the community in defense of the land, and to discuss with people in Toronto the ongoing struggles in Barriere Lake.
We are asking all organizations, friends and allies to please:
- Endorse and Support this event on November 5th
- Help publicize this Event by sending this announcement over your lists,and distributing posters or leaflets at any upcoming events
- Support the List of Demands from the community:
-DONATE: the community of Barriere Lake is in great need of financial support: RAISE FUNDS within your organization and bring donations to the November 5th event, or make donations On-line:
Thank you for your support, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us. Sincerely,
Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) - Toronto
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
10 Britain St.
Toronto, ON M5A 1R6

Monday, October 27, 2008


Since Thanksgiving Monday, October 13 staff at the 'Winnipeg Free Press', represented by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union have been on strike. The workers are due to vote on the latest offer from management tomorrow.

One of the interesting things about this dispute is that the workers involved have set up their own news website to continue serving the people of Winnipeg for the duration. You can see it here at FreePressOn Strike.Com. There is also a Facebook group for the strikers and their supporters. More on the meaning of these tactics later, but first the facts of the strike, as presented by the workers involved.
The Free Press Strike FAQ:
What’s the strike about?
Free Press co-owner Ron Stern demanded concessions from nearly all 1,000 people who create the newspaper every day – from the carriers who deliver the paper to the pressmen who print it to the reporters who fill it with news.

He wanted to eliminate scores of jobs, weaken the pension plan, cut the pay of night shift workers and make carriers do more for less.

More than a week into a strike that is costing the paper at least $250,000 a day, Stern has backed away from most - not all - of those concessions. But we’re still far apart on wages, a fair deal for carriers and a small list of demands union members have. Remember, Free Press workers went into this with their own wish list - reasonable things like better vision care and vacation pay for part-timers. We haven’t even really talked about those things yet.
Are there talks?
Yes. Bargaining started over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, even though Free Press employees have been begging to negotiate for months. It then turned into a stalemate late last week. Talks started again Tuesday and are ongoing.
Why should I care?
The Free Press has been a Manitoba institution for 136 years.All Free Press staff — from columnists to circulation managers — are proud of our ability to provide innovative, in-depth and independent news coverage.We can’t let Stern erode all that. We want to maintain the quality of the newspaper you get every morning and the quality of life of the people who make it.
What are you doing in the mean time?
Until the strike ends, our reporters, photographers, web experts and editors will continue to cover the news in Winnipeg for this site.We’re committed to keeping you informed, just like we have for generations.Thanks for your support.
And also from the same site.
An open letter to our readers from Free Press workers on strike:
Dear Readers,
Free Press Publisher Bob Cox recently accused striking employees of putting “misleading and outright false information” on the record about the strike, which began Oct. 13.

We believe Bob Cox to be a reasonable person. If Bob Cox was negotiating the contract for the Free Press, we’d probably all be back at work.

But he isn’t – Vancouver-based owner Ron Stern and his hired pitbull of a negotiator, Milt Christiansen, are pulling all the strings. And what they’re engaged in is anything but a negotiation. After refusing to bargain for nearly three months, Christiansen almost immediately started delivering ultimatums in the form of what he called his “last, best and FINAL” offer that left no room for discussion or compromise.But it wasn’t a final offer at all. The offer was so riddled with mistakes that the company was forced to offer “clarifications” via e-mail. Those clarifications left the union even more confused. On Friday evening, the company put those clarifications in a revised final offer that came in after 6:30 p.m. and bypassed the conciliator. That revised offer was posted on the CEP website as soon as possible.The union has made it clear the offer is unacceptable. If it’s truly a final offer, our only logical response is “NO.” Talks will not get going again until the company moves off its offer

Here are some more clarifications:
The wage offer
The union’s five-year wage offer was contingent upon the company agreeing to withdraw all concessions and give laid-off workers and proper severance. It was part of a package. In an attempt to paint the union as greedy and obstructionist, Cox has plucked one part of that package offer out of the deal. That offer is now off the table.
Free Press pay
This is an old canard Stern always hauls out at contract time – that Free Press workers are radically overpaid. It’s true a veteran journalist tops out at about $70,000 a year and an experienced pressman makes about the same. But there are hundreds of people at the Free Press who don’t make anywhere near that . The average carrier makes between $12,000 and $14,000 a year. A mailroom insert controller makes just over $30,000. Have a look at our last contract – it’s posted online at – and you’ll see many, many job classifications that pay $8 to $14 an hour. Those are hardly luxury wages. Meanwhile, the company’s latest wage offer would give telephone service reps a salary that falls below minimum wage.
As many as 40 workers, most of them pressmen, are facing layoff. While the severance money offered by the company is good, we are insisting that it be subject to a binding dispute resolution process, preferably through the grievance procedures that are already part of the contract. The company is refusing. If we accept the final offer, we would be asking our members to trust Ron Stern. We are not prepared to do that.

Finally, the bargaining committee has been almost uniquely transparent. Proposals and counter-proposals from both sides are posted on the union’s website – The union’s position on the final-final offer is also posted.

This comes down to who you trust – the bargaining committee, which is made up of rank-and-file Free Press workers who have no reason to mislead members or readers? Or Ron Stern, who has repeatedly attacked his workers by demanding concessions and then refusing to bargain.
This is an emotional time, and we respect the company’s right to spin. But cherry-picking facts and torquing them to suit a multi-millionaire owner does nothing to solve this dispute.

CEP Local 191


Molly has to note that what the Free Press workers are doing via their "alternative news site" during the course of this strike is hardly unique. During the strike at Le Journal de Québec in Québec City from April 2007 to August 2008 the people involved, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), not only set up a news website but also brought out a printed tabloid, Media-Matin, to serve as a community news source during the duration.

Now CUPE, of course, has far deeper pockets than the CEPU, and it would be unrealistic to expect the people here in Winnipeg to go as far as they did in Québec. Still, the Free Press workers have to be commended for trying out this novel tactic to both keep solidarity within the strikers and to gather public sympathy. One of the readers of their site suggested in a letter published there that they make their website permanent, under the heading of a producers' cooperative. That would be fine, but there is still a great need and place for actual printed papers, a need that the internet cannot yet fill.

There is also the fact that few of the people involved in the strike would likely have the ambition to do away with their boss at this time. Even in the Journal de Québec strike the people involved eventually settled and went back to work for their previous employer, and one can certainly say that they were further down the road to doing away with the boss than is the case now. The idea of actually running workplaces democratically under self-management without bosses will only become popular as the results of a long ideological struggle to make this goal seem desirable to ordinary people.

In the absence of wide acceptance of the idea the tactic of providing alternative services and/or of resuming production without the bosses as a pressure tactic still has great value. To mention a few previously discussed on this blog...It was done in the Alcan smelter in Jonquiere, Québec in February of 2004. The Journal de Québec strike has already been mentioned. The 'Strike Bike' in Nordhausen, Germany last year is another example. The largest movement of this nature in recent years has been the factory takeovers in Argentina where something of an "alternative market" has been set up to distribute the products of some of the workplaces involved.

What is the biggest limitation of such recent efforts ? They are hardly ever undertaken except in "crisis" situations where massive layoffs or even workplace closures are imminent. This means that the workers involved start with an obvious handicap- the enterprises are close to terminal, and it takes considerable ingenuity to get them running well and to sell the product. This limitation also means that the people involved are often quite happy to receive a slightly better offer from the previous managers, and the occupation ends. It also means that there is a lot of temptation to listen to this or that social democratic or leftist party who take advantage of the situation to sell the illusion that government takeover of the enterprise involved would be an improvement. It may be in that the workplace would keep running-maybe- but at the cost of exchanging one boss for a much larger and more powerful one.

All that being said the idea of resuming production in occupied workplaces or of providing alternative services is a great tool for labour to win its due, and the spread of the idea should be encouraged as much as possible. It is obviously more applicable to some workplaces than others, and how it could work depends upon the imagination of the people involved. The final point, however, is that it is a very limited tool as long as the majority don't see the desirability of removing bosses entirely. If they do the tool would be used in other than crisis situations and would be much more effective.


Molly a déjà mentionné cette conférence, mais il est suffisamment important pour mériter la répétition. Bientôt ... la refondation de la NEFAC-Québec comme une association indépendante de leur province.Que leurs projets soient de prospérer.
Molly has already mentioned this conference, but it is important enough to deserve repetition. Coming soon...the refoundation of NEFAC-Québec as an independent provincial association. may their projects prosper.
De la blogue de NEFAC-Montréal
From the NEFAC-Montreal Blog

Discussions et débats sur la création d'une nouvelle organisation communiste-libertaire: Une société communiste-libertaire. :
L'Union Locale de la NEFAC-Montréal vous invite à une conférence-débat sur l'organisation anarchiste et la création d'une société communiste-libertaire. Nous y discuterons du projet de société communiste-libertaire dans le cadre de la refondation de la NEFAC au Québec.
Café Chaos-2031 St-Denis, Montréal.
Samedi le 1er novembre 2008 à 14h.
Discussions and debates on the creation of a new libertarian communist organization: A libertarian-communist society:
The Union of Local NEFAC-Montréal invites you to a conference-debate on anarchist organization and the creation of a libertarian-communist society. We will discuss the project of a libertarian communist society within the framework of refounding NEFAC in Québec.
Coffee Chaos-2031 St-Denis, Montréal.
Saturday 1 November 2008 to 14.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


It's Canada's smallest province, and it's the smallest capital city in the country, but no situation is too small for solidarity. The number of strikers- five, but the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is standing behind their members. The sewage treatment workers of the City of Charlottetown have been on strike for a week now, and CUPE organized a demonstration in solidarity with their members. Here's the story from CUPE.
CUPE backs Charlottetown strikers:
More than 100 CUPE members from across PEI, rallied in front of Charlottetown’s city hall Oct. 24, to support CUPE 501's week-old strike.
Paul Moist told the crowd this strike is about fairness and respect. “The solidarity evident in the community tells me that these members have broad support. Our five striking members are not alone; they have the full support of 570,000 CUPE members from coast to coast.”
Moist urged the city to return to the table. “Our waste water treatment plant workers provide an important service, one that deserves to be fairly recognized at the bargaining table.”
CUPE PEI President, Milo Murray said “This strike is about the City of Charlottetown spending $20 million renovating their waste water treatment plant, bringing it from a Level 2 to a Level 4 operation, but refusing to pay five highly skilled workers accordingly.”
The president of the PEI Federation of Labour, Carl Pursey, also stressed the solidarity amongst unionized workers on the Island, and brought along the support of the Federation.
The five members of CUPE 501 have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2006. Negotiations began in Feb. 2008.
Here's how the event was reported in the local newspaper 'The Guardian'.
Union stages protest in Charlottetown to support striking treatment plant workers :
The Guardian
In a dramatic show of solidarity, the union representing five workers on strike from the Charlottetown wastewater treatment plant staged a protest in front of City Hall Friday afternoon.
About a hundred members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), including its national president, as well as members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the P.E.I. Federation of Labour brought flags, balloons and whistles to the protest to make noise in support of the striking plant workers.
The five members of CUPE local 501 have been without a contract since December 2006. Negotiations for a new contract began in February of this year, but those negotiations broke down recently.
The workers have been on strike for a week.
“There is no negotiations at this point,” said the striking workers' local CUPE representative Bill MacKinnon. “The conciliator phoned me in the middle of the week and tried to go for some sort of settlement and we did make an offer in terms of creating steps in our collective agreement to allow them the wage increase they want and also get the adjustment we're looking for but it was dismissed, so we're back at the picket line.”
The workers are looking for a two per cent wage adjustment to recognize they have been raised two levels in their training and classification.
That would cost the city only about $7,900 more than they are offering, MacKinnon said.
When CUPE representatives told the crowd of protesting members this figure, they booed, jeered and blew squealing whistles in discontent.
Carl Pursey, president of the P.E.I. Federation of Labour, said the strike was about more than just respect for CUPE members, but for the whole labour movement.
“We'll show the city that they're not just taking CUPE on, but everybody.”
Roland Ford, one of the five plant workers on strike, said he and his co-workers are looking for an acknowledgement of respect for their work.
“We want city council to come back to the table and give us a fair settlement,” Ford told the crowd who cheered and chanted for him.
National CUPE president Paul Moist travelled to Charlottetown for the protest Friday.
“We're here today as a union that probably represents 570,000 workers from coast to coast,” Moist told the rally. “These five members will have the weight of our union behind them until their work is respected, and until they get a good collective agreement.”
Moist stressed the important services provided by the striking plant workers, and that they deserve the marginal increases they are asking for.
MacKinnon agreed.
“These people have lived and died the renovations of that plant, starting in 2005 until the renovations were complete,” MacKinnon said. “And they were hired for a level-2 plant, but they're now operating a level-4 plant. We're simply looking for some recognition that this has value attached to it — is that too much to ask?”
He said the $7,900 difference between what the workers are looking for and what the city is offering represents about half the amount the city spent on new sculptures of chairs in one city park.
“Not only that, they've hired 24/7 security guards (at the plant) and they've got a company in there contracting in to attempt to do our work — they can afford our offer?”

The 'Labour Photo of the Year' contest sponsored by the online union solidarity site Labour Start ends this coming Friday. the contest has been narrowed to five entries, and there's still time to get your vote in. Go to THIS LINK to see the finalists and vote. Do it before the ghosties and the goblins come out.

There is an alternative to the boss/employee trap, one that is available in the here and now rather than waiting for some apocalyptic political change. Workers' Co-ops, also known as producer co-ops, are an alternative to wage slavery in many fields today. The number of worker co-ops is growing worldwide, including here in Canada. This coming November 13 to 15 the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation will be holding its annual general meeting, along with a conference on producer co-ops here in Winnipeg. Here's the announcement from The Co-op Zone.
CWCF AGM/Conference 2008: Co-ops that Work!:
Nov 13 2008 - 9:00am
End: Nov 15 2008 - 3:00pm
Timezone: Canada/Central
CWCF AGM/Conference 2008: Co-ops that Work! See below for a 1-page summary of the Conference (Pre-Announcement), the full Conference Program, a list of off-site accommodations and the Registration Info (fees and logistics). Lastly you will also find information about the additional Labour-Coops workshop (not part of the CWCF Conference), being held on Nov. 12th. You may now register on-line by clicking on the Survey Monkey link, below.

MANITOBANS: SUBSIDIES for Conference registration fee and out-of-pocket expenses: There are subsidies available to cover the registration fee and some out-of-pocket expenses available to any Manitoba resident who is a CWCF member, or member of a worker co-op member. Manitobans in the process of starting a worker co-op are also eligible. The initial deadline to apply for a subsidy has passed. However, because there are still subsidies available, we are still accepting requests. We encourage all Manitobans with interest to apply, either by sending an e-mail to, or by completing the on-line registration form and stating that you request a registration fee subsidy. Depending on the demand, we may limit the awarding of subsidies to one or two per organization. If you are interested but not a member, please enquire about joining CWCF. CWCF gratefully acknowledges the Cooperative Promotion Board of Manitoba for providing the subsidy pool.
Web site:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Linchpin, the journal of the Ontario platformist Common Cause organization, is now in its sixth edition. With timely article on the financial crisis, anarchafeminism and much more. Here is their announcement. See the website to download a pdf copy of the magazine and to read all the articles.
Linchpin Issue 6:

This is the October/November 2008 issue of the Linchpin paper, published by Common Cause. We publish articles written by our members as well as by others involved in action / movements. Please contact us if you would like to contribute or have any feedback.

We make copies of this paper available in the Ontario communities in which we have a presence, and are always looking to expand. If you'd like to get involved in helping in our distribution efforts, please contact us.

Copies are available at a number of locations, including:
HAMILTON - The Skydragon Centre, 27 King William St.
LONDON - Empowerment Infoshop, 636 Queen St.
OTTAWA - Exile Infoshop, 256 Bank St; Oneness Grassroots Promotions, 430 Rideau St;
TORONTO - Toronto Women’s Bookstore, 73 Harbord St.