KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – In 1981 postal workers went on strike.
The public was sharply divided, a lot of people didn’t like it a bit. Mail was how you communicated and how you paid your bills.
I remember how I had just moved to Halifax from Amsterdam, and I still have boxes full of letters I sent to my mother in those days. Let me tell you, no mail delivery was a problem.
That strike went on for 42 days.
Nobody legislated the postal workers back to work. After all, the right to strike is fundamental and protected by the Constitution.
Good thing too. Among the core gains for postal workers was maternity leave, something that didn’t exist at the time, and that no union had ever demanded at a Canada-wide level.
After the CUPW victory other unions followed suit, and eventually the government made the right to maternity leave into law.
Activehistory.ca published an interesting article on how the idea of maternity leave was demonized when the postal workers first started talking about it, and how today we take it for granted and enjoy it as a matter of course.
We all know what happened last month when CUPW initiated a series of rotating one-day strikes.
As in ‘81 some of the demands were around basic wage issues.
And just as in ‘81 some of the demands exceed the narrow self-interests of the postal workers, things like postal banking in support of the many rural communities abandoned by commercial banks, and measures to reduce carbon footprints.
Very much unlike ‘81, on November 27 postal workers were legislated back to work, and forbidden to picket.
To protest this Charter breach union activists all across Canada organized solidarity pickets.
What other option is there when the fundamental right to strike is taken away?
“The right to full and fair collective Collective Bargaining, and the fundamental Charter-protected right to strike, are always worth defending,” wrote Tony Tracy after his arrest. “Bosses and governments have never given us rights that we haven’t fought for, and those “rights” are meaningless if not defended.”
Only in Halifax did heavy-handed police decide to arrest six such activists, keep them in jail overnight and lay charges. Their justification that the picketers were somehow endangering traffic is laughable.
The six are now facing charges of mischief and obstruction, and that means legal costs.
Let’s help them out. A donation to help with the defense of the six activists would be a beautiful thing.
- Danny Cavanagh: Since when is it okay for government to break the law?
- What a Canada Post strike is all about
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I’m always sympathetic to striking workers. My youngest daughter-in-law led picket lines in Boston for 6 weeks when Marriott employees went out on strike this fall for better wages, protections, and benefits. Similar strikes in Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, and other cities helped convince the billion-dollar hotel industry to change their policies.
The good news is that the Boston government lined up squarely behind the striking workers with endorsements and encouragement from the mayor as well as the city council. This combined pressure on Marriott helped end the strike.