Strike Continues for Toronto Hotel Workers

[b]Members of UNITE HERE local 75 picket the Toronto Hilton on Richmond Street W - Friday September 17th.[/b]

By Alex Balch

Toronto, Ont - This year’s TIFF festivities may be over, but for the workers of UNITE HERE Local 75, the struggle against multinational hotel conglomerate [i]Westmont Hospitality Group[/i] is just heating up.

Many of the over 2,000 members of Local 75 employed by Westmont are currently working without a contract – some of them since February of this year. Workers accuse the company, which owns or operates 13 hotels in the GTA, of trying to lock its employees into a “permanent recession” - despite the fact that the hotel industry has largely bounced back from the economic crisis of 2008.

“The recession is long over for these guys,” says union organizer Amarjeet Chhabra, speaking about the hotel management. “Yet they’re still using the language of the recession while they negotiate a new contract.”

“Our workers can’t put food on the table, even though many of them are doing the work of two people. It’s just not fair.”

The union has been engaged in a series of high-profile one-day strikes since late June, when workers at the Novotel Toronto Center walked off the job just as the French delegation to the G20 was arriving to check in. Since then they have increased the pressure – carrying out eight such one-day strikes during TIFF.

On Friday September 18, dozens of Hilton employees, joined by workers from the nearby Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel and union delegates from CEP and CAW, staged a picket and rally outside the Toronto Hilton, while volunteer drummers from “Rhythms of Resistance” helped to keep spirits high. The striking workers appeared energized by the extra publicity generated by sympathetic actors and tourists in town for the Festival, and vowed to continue on until Westmont grants them a fair new contract.

It’s the class struggle, stupid!

[b]Organized labour’s confused response to the McGuinty Liberals' attack on Ontario’s working-class [/b]

By Ajamu Nangwaya and Alex Diceanu

Organized labour in Ontario will continue to put forth a weak and ineffective response to attacks from the ruling class as long as it continues to ignore the reality of class struggle. A perfect example is its current response to a proposed two-year wage-freeze that the Dalton McGuinty-led Ontario government plans on imposing on unionized public sector workers. The provincial Liberals would like to save $750 million per year from a wage-freeze, so as to help manage the $19.3 billion budget deficit. Readers need not be reminded that this deficit is the result of the risky financial speculations of the captains of finance, industry and commerce that created the Great Recession of 2008.

But it is the 710,000 unionized members of the working class and 350,000 non-unionized managers and other employees who draw pay cheques from the government[1] and the users of state-provided services (and private sector workers) who are being asked to bear the burden of paying for the actions of the corporate sector. At the same time as this attempt to take income from the pockets of government workers, the McGuinty Liberals’ have granted a $4.6 billion tax-cut to the business sector.

The leader of the Ontario New Democrats, Andrea Howarth, has signaled her support for public sector workers’ acceptance of a pay cut. She asserts, "I'm quite sure when they get to the bargaining table they will do their part like everyone else does ... there is a collective bargaining process that has to be respected."[2] Wow! Who said that the working-class needs enemies with “friends” like the New Democratic Party (NDP) and its leader Andrea Horwarth?

Judge’s comments “off the wall.”

[b]Protesters denounce patriarchy in Hamilton courtroom - August 26, 2010[/b]

Hamilton, Ont. - On Thursday August 26, The Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton and Area (SACHA) organized a protest outside the Hamilton Court House after a rape trial was stopped and the accused was set free. A lively crowd of around 40 people, including local unions CUPE 3906 and USW 1005, members of the Immigrant Women’s Centre and of the Hamilton Coalition Against the G20, denounced the actions of Justice Kim Carpenter-Gunn and defense attorney, Peter Boushy and demanded that the legal system stop blaming survivors of sexual assault.

According to the [i]Hamilton Spectator[/i] article that broke the story, the trial was stayed after the defense attorney questioned the credibility of the alleged victim because she had made new allegations against another man. According to Boushy, this “raised the spectre of fabrication.”

Judge Carpenter-Gunn agreed, telling the prosecuting attorney that if they continued with the trial she would have to warn the jury about the credibility of the woman’s testimony. The judge went on to say "I think the evidence that I heard yesterday, particularly from the complainant - and this is a credibility case - was quite unbelievable. The demeanor of (the woman) was off the wall ... I don't know whether that was because she was strung out on drugs. She certainly had that appearance, but I'm not an expert on that."

According to a press release put out by SACHA, the judge’s and defense lawyer’s comments amount to saying that “because the woman alleged she had been raped more than once, she is less worthy of belief” and that “there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to react to being raped.” Further, their comments imply that "if you use substance, you cannot be believed."

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London fascist group’s “rebirth” stillborn

[b]Carrying a banner reading "These faggots kill fascists" anti-fascists send a different message in front of homophobic signs held by bigots at the London, Ontario pride parade on July 25, 2010. Photo: [url=]Toban Black [/url][/b]

[i]By Alex Balch[/i]

London, Ont. - On Sunday July 25, fifty anti-fascist activists from southern Ontario joined hundreds of Londoners to show their support for the London Pride Parade. By all accounts, the day was a great success; the weather was excellent, the floats were fun and creative, the atmosphere was great – and the fascists were nowhere to be seen.

The latter was a surprise, but certainly a welcome one. After one year’s absence, members of the Northern Alliance (a neo-nazi organization based in London, Ontario), playing on traditional fascist imagery, had promised a “rebirth” of their vile tradition of showing up [i]en masse[/i] to disrupt what they refer to as a “parade of perversion”.

Their absence during the previous year’s festivities was widely understood to be the result of a concurrence of demoralizing setbacks: the loss of ideological compatriot Wayne Kellestine - arrested and convicted of multiple-homicide for his role in the slaying of eight members of the Bandidos biker gang – and the embarrassing turnout of their 2008 “protest”, in which their members were outnumbered and openly mocked by a larger contingent of militant counter-protesters.

One day longer? The Vale-Inco strike comes to a close

By Scott Neigh
[i]Northern Ontario Correspondent[/i]

On July 7 and 8, 2010, striking members of United Steel Workers Local 6500 in Sudbury, Ontario, voted 75% in favour of a contract that ended a bitter strike against transnational mining giant Vale Inco. The 3300 strikers had been on the picket lines for almost one year (along with members of Local 6200 in Port Colborne, Ontario, who voted in favour by a similar margin).

Despite the immense effort and sacrifices made by workers over the course of the year-long ordeal, the settlement marks a defeat for a local with a reputation for strength in a town with a reputation for solidarity. It is a hard moment for those who are returning to work -- who endured so much and still lost significant ground -- but as the world faces the renewed neo-liberal assault promised by leaders at the recent G20 summit in Toronto, it is important to ask critical questions that might strengthen all of our struggles in the difficult times ahead.

G20 Policing in Toronto – Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue…

by Lesley Wood
[url=]Toronto Media Co-op[/url]

During last week’s G20 summit, police arrested or detained over a thousand people. With guns drawn, they kicked people awake, they threatened, pepper sprayed, TASERed, tear gassed and beat those in the streets. Although the politicians declared the policing at the summit a success, popular anger at the police is at an all time high. At such moments, it is important to look closely at the tactics and strategy that were used to police dissent, not least because the models that are considered successful, tend to spread.

How was the summit in Toronto policed? The website for the Integrated Security Unit argues that “The approach to the Summit would be best described as an expanded version of our approach to previous events based on best practices and the lessons learned.” This seems obvious. However the ‘expansion’ included some new and worrying elements.

Their Laws—Our Loss

by Jeff Shantz
State repression columnist

In events like the G20 protests and clampdown there emerge real opportunities for recognition and understanding that are not always so readily available behind the screen of “business as usual.” The learning curve shifts and some things become much more clear.

One of the interesting revelations of the G20 fallout is the extent to which many in the social movements or “the Left” are ruled by the morals, values and prejudices of the dominant classes. This has been expressed in the numerous calls for repression of the black bloc by would-be figure heads of the comfortable Left in Canada. I won't bother naming them, most have already read the stuff. A rather stunning case in point has been the number of open statements of support for, indeed appeals for, the state capitalist rule of law. For some the rule of law should have held against the black bloc. Others turn to the the rule of law as a statist security blanket providing the basis for—the very conditions of—their “peaceful protests,” which the black bloc supposedly infringed upon. One of the most striking examples comes in the form of an incredible statement from CUPE-Ontario (Canadian Union of Public Employees), my former union federation:

“Property was damaged, publicly-owned police vehicles were burned, and innocent people were attacked and detained as a result of taking part in protests. All of this is wrong. What we have witnessed is nothing short of the abandonment of the rule of law, both by a small group who took part in the protests, and by a massive and heavily armed police force who were charged with overseeing them.”

Having equated the black bloc with the police in their scorn, the statement goes on to say:

Free Our Friends! Community Update on G20 Detainees

by Direct Support Committees of G20 detainees

While G20 leaders met behind a steel cage and a 1-billion dollar Fortress Toronto operation, we witnessed an unprecedented coordinated police operation in the city of Toronto. Police brutality against protest participants, journalists, legal observers, medics, and random passersby came in the form of indiscriminate arrests, beatings, pepper spray, rubber bullets, police horse charges, illegal searches and seizures, and extended arbitrary detentions.  While in custody, people were forced into steel cage cells with up to 40 people per cell; made to sleep on concrete floors with open bathrooms; denied food, water, toilet paper, and sanitary products; subjected to sexual harassment, threats, humiliation, and intimidation; and refused access to medical attention, phone calls, and legal counsel.

Many were beaten and brutalized, leading to serious injuries and hospitalization. According to an article authored by resident physicians of the Toronto Street Medics, “All of the serious injuries we treated were inflicted by the police. While violence against property received a great deal of coverage, violence against people -- broken bones, cracked heads and eyes filled with pepper spray - has yet to feature prominently in any mainstream media. Our teams of medics witnessed and treated people who had been struck in the head by police batons, had lacerations from police shields and had been trampled by police horses.”

Over the weekend, there were 1090 arrests, of whom 113 were released without charges on the street, 714 were held for breach of the peace and released within 72 hours, and 263 released with pending charges.

Around 20 people still remain in custody.  While the exact numbers and charges of some of those still being held in detention are unclear at this time, we know that 17 people are facing a variety of trumped up and politically-motivated allegations including conspiracy.

They Were Doing Their God-Damn Jobs: On Policing

[b]Riot Police protect the banks at King and Bay, June 26, 2010, PHOTO: [url=]Ali Mustafa[/url] (cc)[/b]

by Jeff Shantz
State Repression Columnist

In the days following the mass police assaults on organizers, demonstrators, and bystanders during the G8/G20 events, even as comrades linger in squalid detention centres and jails, a troubling notion is taking shape, seemingly gaining traction, among activist circles as well as some sectors of the general public more broadly. This notion suggests that the police in Toronto acted in a way that was somehow atypical or out of the ordinary. Even more there is a sense that the police could have “kept order.” Some public discussion suggests that policing during the G8/G20 reflects a breakdown, a failure to carry out their duties “properly.” Incredibly, during a rally in support of people in detention, Naomi Klein suggested that the police “Do your god-damned job!” In response many in the crowd chanted “Do your job! Do your job!” Elsewhere, and even more incredibly, Judy Rebick has suggested that the were police failed to do their jobs properly in not arresting perceived black block participants: “What they could have done is arrest the Black Bloc at the beginning before they had a chance to be part of the bigger crowd and that's what they didn't do.” Some seem to believe that the police were supposed to be there to protect them or that the police provide the means for “protest” to take place.