Any reader of People’s Voice knows that we recognize a comprehensive range of issues as being critical to the working class and the struggle for socialism. Through 2021 we covered the critical battles for labour, and some of these cast their shadow forward into 2022 so that we can identify some of the key struggles to be fought this year.
There are, of course, many other crucial issues and fights that are already underway – and some that will emerge – but for now, here’s what we see shaping up as some of the priorities for labour:
Mass resistance to austerity: Already, we have seen the tremendous strike (and something of a victory) by public sector workers in New Brunswick, for wage and pension gains in the face of an aggressive Conservative government. There were similar strikes and fights throughout the country, in both the public and private sectors – childcare workers in Quebec, racialized women workers at Rexplas in Ontario, hotel workers in BC, public sector workers throughout Alberta and many others. These struggles represent an important growth in militancy and (critically) the capacity to move collective agreement fights to the political level. It’s incumbent on the labour leadership – from locals right up to the CLC – to support and build this movement, in labour’s own name and on labour’s own terms.
(Re)building working-class unity: To move the fight against austerity (and the working-class struggle in general) forward, the labour movement needs to forge working class unity. Obviously, this means repairing the rifts in the house of labour (CLC, Unifor, Teamsters…) But to be really effective, unity has to be militant and political – its vehicle must be mass action, based on the independent demands of the working-class and rooted in (and striving for) full gender, racial and national equality.
Wet’suwet’en solidarity: There are countless ongoing Indigenous struggles across the country, from land defenses to justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to First Nations’ children’s welfare and more, and the labour movement has generally been vocal about supporting them. However, on the struggle of the Wet’suwet’en against pipeline construction on their territory and their resistance to repeated militarized invasions by the RCMP, labour has been strangely timid. While some locals and affiliates (and many individual workers) have expressed solidarity, many including the CLC have been absent. Whether the hesitation relates to the question of pipeline-related jobs or the fact that BC has an NDP government or both, labour’s silence in the face of such sustained aggression by the capitalist state is inexcusably short-sighted and opportunistic. This must change.
A green transition for workers: Without a doubt, there is a climate crisis and an urgent need to decarbonize the economy. We are bombarded daily by business-friendly “solutions” like carbon taxes and trading, which place the burden on workers while doing nothing to challenge the root cause of the crisis – capitalism. Yet plenty of work has been done by labour bodies around the world, to develop solutions to the climate crisis that are rooted in working-class experience and analysis. The best of these recognize the need for fundamental change – replacing capitalism with socialism – while at the same time advancing radical immediate reforms that creatively integrate the needs of workers and the environment. To win these kinds of reforms, and to open the door to more radical change, the labour leadership needs to do the hard work of engaging, educating and organizing workers, especially those who rely on carbon-intensive industries for their livelihoods.
Working people have no option but to face these and other challenges. The question is whether the labour movement will lead them.
Photo: Alberta hospital workers hold wildcat, 2020 [Credit: AUPE]
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