There is nothing special about the administration of Ontario premier Michael Harris, except for its bluntness in pressing the cutbacks. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the federal government has cut billions of dollars in what they call "transfer payments" to the provinces in education, health care, welfare, and other vital services. Every single provincial government - Liberal, Conservative, New Democratic Party (NDP), or Parti Quebequois - has since implemented cuts with different forms and tempos. This is a conscious attempt by Canada's rulers to prevent the development of a national protest movement by making this a province-by-province issue.
The Ontario teachers strike is the biggest labor battle in North America today. It is a new confirmation that more and more working people refuse to continue making "sacrifices" for a system they understand is not working in their interests.
The teachers' strike comes on top of nine union- organized Days of Action across Ontario since 1995 protesting the massive cuts by the Harris government. These have involved hundreds of thousands of workers, unionized and nonunionized, youth and others.
This growing labor resistance in Canada is becoming a political factor. The Harris administration was forced to retreat somewhat on its antiunion Bill 130 a few weeks ago, for example. This shows that workers' struggles and mobilizations can make a difference. It also shows the stake for all working people in the current teachers' strike. A victory by the teachers would put our side in a better position to resist the much broader attacks against our living and working conditions. A defeat will embolden all capitalist rulers to initiate further cuts and attacks.
Solidarity with the teacher's strike is posed across
Ontario, Canada, North America, and the rest of the
world. Working-class solidarity will help make concrete
the need for the union movement as a whole to launch a
common fight against all cuts in social services, for
free, high quality education and health services for all,
for full union rights for all workers, including the
right to unionize and the right to strike. The union
movement needs to fight for demands like a shorter
workweek with no reduction in pay as a way to create
thousands of jobs that we need against unemployment, and
for a massive program of public works.
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