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Socialist Worker | issue 524 | November 2010


Hotel workers lead fight against Ford

by Carolyn Egan

The millionaire mayor elect of Toronto, Rob Ford, has been calling for an end to the public “gravy train,” talking about the need to contract out city jobs, cut the public sector and privatize services.

Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris and other Conservative leaders of the “common sense” revolution celebrated with Ford at his victory party on election night.

The Harris government initiated vicious attacks on workers rights and services in the 1990s that were met by citywide general strikes across the province.

Ford is following in the footsteps of leaders around the world in Britain, France, South Africa and Greece who are forcing so-called austerity measures on unwilling populations, and pushing working people and the poor to pay the price for the economic crisis.

We have seen workers fighting back globally, with general strikes and mass demonstrations, refusing to accept the mantra from corporations and governments that it is their role to bear the brunt of the failures of capitalism.

Hotel workers

In Toronto, Delta Chelsea hotel workers, members of UNITE/HERE Local 75, are out on a two-week strike against their employer.

At a recent rally, Paul Clifford, president of the local, stated that the federal government had spent $4 million at the hotel to put up delegates and functionaries at the recent G20 summit.

He went on to say that money, along with the over $1 billion spent on the G20, is the real “gravy train.”

He added that the Ford agenda intends to worsen the lives of working people while giving advantage to the wealthy and the corporations, and that working people should not be fooled by his simplistic slogans.

The hotel is trying to keep the wages of their workers down and there is constant pressure to work harder for less. The Hotel Workers Rising campaign, initiated a number of years ago, was intended to raise the bar for hotel workers across North America. Those workers are trying to set a higher standard through this strike that hopefully will become the pattern throughout the city.

They should be an inspiration to other workers who are faced with similar employer attacks. Community organizations and workers in both the public and private sectors must immediately begin crafting their response to Ford’s policies and start doing the grassroots organizing to fight back against the coming attacks.

Rob Ford

Ford has made it perfectly clear that he intends to contract out public services, such as garbage collection, to the private sector. Studies show that this will be more costly in the end and, of course, will bring down the wages, benefits and working conditions of the workers.

Many working class people voted for Rob Ford believing that his promises to cut additional fees for license renewal and do away with so-called “waste” at City Hall would make their lives better. They were also disappointed with the so-called progressive council, which was out of touch with the lives of ordinary people and forced public sector workers out on strike.

We are in for big battles in Toronto. Trade unionists and activists are already meeting to develop strategies for mobilizations and fightbacks to retain and expand desperately needed city services and defend public sector workers who will face the brunt of the attacks.

The progressive councillors who were elected must make it clear that they will defend and support city services and workers.


Socialist Worker issue 524