Category Archives: Strikes

Class War Rages On in British Columbia (2002)

Furia y guerra de clases en la Columbia Británica


Class War Rages On in British Columbia

On Wednesday, August 7th, 2002, the Anti-Poverty Committee (A.P.C.) of Vancouver held a rally, march, and action for “Welfare on Demand” and against the current economic restructuring of neo-“Liberal” government of B.C; an escalation in the war on the poor that has translated to cuts to welfare rates, and a new 3-week-waiting period for new welfare applicants. This is taking place at the same time as massive government and corporate lay-offs, and in the wake of a new 6-dollar “training wage” (2 dollars less than the minimum wage in B.C.).

The excluded class (the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, welfare recipients etc.), the most oppressed sector of society, is facing the most serious and painful consequences of these increasing attacks. In response, there has been an unsurge in self-organization, militant direct actions against the State, and the developement of “base structures” – anti-poverty organizations that struggle to provide the excluded with basic needs through direct intervention, and ultimately, to dismantle this government through campaigns of economic disruption.

The Anti-Poverty Committee’s rally began at the Burrard Street Skytrain station at 1 p.m. with a few speakers, media interviews, and the handing out of legal rights cards with phone contacts in case of arrests. A speaker announced the A.P.C.’s demands, and the crowd of about a hundred people made a short march through the financial district to the regional executive welfare office. Once reaching the office the crowd attempted to push through a line of police to gain entry to the building. A banner was dropped from a balcony by two people who had gained entry prior to the march. Several people managed to gain access to the inside of the building through side-doors and attempted to push open the front entrance doors from inside. This meant that the police had people pushing on the doors from both sides at once. At one point a door was forced open and a scuffle broke out as the crowd continued to try to force their way into the office. One cop used his bike to push the crowd back, but the demonstrators held their ground. Many people put up stickers that called for an end to the 3-week-wait all over the outside of the building . Through negotiating two A.P.C. members were granted a meeting with the office. The crowd rallied outside until they returned, and then dispersed.

A large and diverse group of organizations endorsed the A.P.C.’s demands and their march, including the Hospital Employees Union of B.C., the B.C. Government Employees Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees B.C., the “Prepare the General Strike Committee”, as well as many community groups. While this is a welcome and positive developement, there was a visible lack of rank-and-file union workers at the demonstration, in contrast to the presence they have shown at previous rallies in opposition to the B.C. Liberal government. Several factors may have contributed to this, including the mid-day timing of the demonstration as well as it’s focus on welfare rights, rather than broad opposition to the Liberals policies as a whole. Although grassroots networking efforts by radical and community groups is important, the initiative should fall to the rank-and-file union workers, to show solidarity with the most oppressed sectors of the province. The illusions held by many regarding the trade unions must be broken, and an autonomous movement of rank-and-file workers that fights in true solidarity with the excluded must be developed.

Later on Wednesday night hundreds of thousands of citizens gathered at the beach near downtown Vancouver for a fireworks display that ended with the crowd blocking off major streets downtown, the intervention of police who arrested several members of the crowd, an attempt by the crowd to charge the police line in response, and attacks on vehicles and store-front windows. There are conflicting reports of police using pepper-spray to disperse the people who confronted them. This incident points to the always-present potential for class conflict at all large gatherings of people, particularly ones with an overwhelming and agitational police force. For insurrectionaries, this incident should illuminate other-than-traditional avenues for our own intervention and agitation.

From an insurrectionary viewpoint, the increasing willingness of anti-Liberal demonstrators in B.C. to directly confront the Capitalist State, and its enforcers; the police, is a positive development that should be expanded upon.

From our observation, this increasing militancy has become possible not only because of the deepening of class contradictions under the Liberal governement, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, but also because of the conscious efforts of radicals and militants to move away from symbolic protest and towards intentional conflict and direct action.

The context of the current class war in British Columbia includes –

– An attempt by B.C. Government Employeees Union (B.C.G.E.U.) members to charge into a hotel on January 23rd, 2002, where Premier Gordon Campbell was set to speak.

– Illegal wildcat strikes in late January by the B.C. Teachers Federation (B.C.T.F.) and the B.C.G.E.U.

– A tent-city occupation by street youth and students on the front lawn of the provincial legislature building in Victoria in February which ended with it’s dismantling by riot police

– The fire-bombing of Premier Gordon Campbell’s office on the night of February 21st.

– A B.C Federation of Labour rally at the legislature in Victoria by more than 20,000 people, at which a group of about 10 anarchists intervened by attacking a security barrier and throwing rocks at the legislature building.

– An anti-poverty Snake March in Victoria on March 25th that went through a mall and several corporate stores, leaving splatters from paint-bombs and graffitti behind.

– An anti-poverty march to one of Premier Gordon Campbell’s homes in Vancouver on April 1st.

– An all-womyn anti-poverty brigade’s occupation of a “Member of the Legislative Assembly” office in Victoria on April 25th that was broken up by riot police who pepper-sprayed several demonstrators.

– A May Day demonstration in Vancouver against the 6-dollar training wage that included a half-hour blockade of a McDonalds restaurant (one of the businesses using the training wage, and a major contributor to the Liberal’s election campaign.). After the end of the demonstration a masked group charged through a downtown mall and carried out small acts of vandalism and sabotage.

– A July 14th demonstration at the opening of a gallery show at the Vancouver Art Gallery at which the Premier was scheduled to speak at, but failed to show his face in public – because of “security concerns” caused by hundreds of angry demonstrators who attempted to dismantle a security fence, spat on police officers, and were then pepper-sprayed.

In conclusion, direct action is the only hope for the excluded, the only means available for survival and dignity. Our strategies for moving this struggle forward must focus on three areas –

– Conscious attacks on the institutions of oppression

– Propaganda

– Continuing efforts to organize affinity groups and base structures with explicitly revolutionary goals.

…Until the final victory…

Insurrectionary Anarchists of the Coast Salish Territories (British Columbia, Canada)


Perspective on the BC Ferry Strike (2003)

Perspective on the BC Ferry Strike

by Concerned Citizen
December 13, 2003

For a period of a few days the people of BC witnessed something unusual: a union standing up to its corporate employer, the Liberal government, and the legal bureaucracy designed to limit workers’ struggle.

The ferry workers began limited strike action on December 7, cutting food service and overtime, to begin their fight against wage cuts. On December 10, they shut down the ferries in response to an attempt by the government to impose a 80-day “cooling off period”. The strike was declared “illegal” the next day, December 11, but ferry workers defied the back-to-work order. Workers from other unions and non-union supporters came out to picket lines at ferry docks and a demonstration was held outside the BC Ferry Corporation headquarters in Victoria. After rallying at the site for some time and shouting down scab replacement workers, the protesters marched to the provincial legislature chanting “general strike”.

Ferry workers at a number of picket lines vowed that they were willing to go all the way, and even be arrested by police.

The next day, December 12, the union “leaders” agreed to binding arbitration and called off the strike. While some workers appeared to be glad to see the end of the strike, many people felt that the struggle had been defused from above at a crucial juncture. Many more people had prepared to travel to the picket lines to support the striking workers, taking into account the possibility of the police intervening, only to hear that the strike had suddenly ended. There was a growing call for the strike to generalize: from supporters, the already striking IWA forest workers, and from ferry workers themselves. Many were excited by the new possibilities that the ferry workers’ determination had opened up and wanted to help to widen the struggle.

But when it came down to it, the union leaders did what union leaders do: they compromised with the corporation, and put the breaks on the strike. As managers of the workforce, this is the normal function of union bosses.

Although many put emphasis on the “militancy” of the BC Ferry workers union leadership, it would be a mistake to ignore the push from the rank-and-file that would have prompted the leaders to appear as such.

In my view, it would have been quite possible for the ferry workers and their supporters to open up another front in this particular class struggle by organizing independently of the union bureaucracy. The self-organization of the rank-and-file workers and their supporters could have lead to direct actions which may have forced the ferry corporation’s hand, or at least opened up space for the social struggle to spread to other sectors of the economy.

One option that remains open to ferry workers is the “good work” strike, a tactic which is particularly effective in the service sector. A good work strike would mean that the workers would remain on the job but not charge customers for fare. This would not only damage the financial interests of the employer, but would also build links of social solidarity with passengers.

The strike caused massive disruption to the BC economy and provoked the anger of the business community and Gordon Campbell himself. This clearly shows the effectiveness of economically disruptive action as opposed to symbolic protest. The limitations that the legal system and the union adminstration put on the self-activity of workers was made more obvious in the course of the strike. Although the government promotes bargaining over direct action, it is difficult to undertand where workers’ leverage would come from if any kind of effective economic action is “illegal”. Given that negotiation inevitably benefits the interests of the corporation (which is in a position of power) and the union bosses, but leaves the workers in the lurch and always means the end of the struggle, a critical look at bargaining as a tactic is necessary.

I offer this perspective with the intention of disturbing the still waters of BC by encourging all working and unemployed people to organize themselves in a struggle against our common enemy – the BC Liberal government, and the wealthy corporations who support the government while exploiting the people and the land.

Responses, discussion and criticism are welcome.

Hospital Employees Union Wildcat Strike in Vancouver (2003)

Hospital Employees Union Wildcat Strike in Vancouver

Tuesday, January 28, 2003
by Insurgent-S

More than 1,000 Hospital Employees Union (HEU) workers took part in an illegal wildcat strike and picket of several hospitals in Vancouver on Tuesday, January 28, the date that marks the first anniversary of the Liberal government’s legislation that tore up health union contracts and signaled the move towards privatization of the health care system. Since coming to power the Liberal’s have cut health services, closed hospitals, and fired hundreds of workers throughout the province. The HEU rank-and-file in Vancouver is largely made up of women of colour.

HEU workers picketed and blockaded entrances to hospitals with vehichles, banners and bodies early Tuesday morning as part of a Day Of Defiance, allowing only essential service workers to cross the line. A flying squad of Anti-Poverty Committee (APC) members and former Woodwards squatters came out in solidarity with the striking workers at the Vancouver Childrens Hospital. Several doctors and non-HEU workers attempted to drive through the blockade, endangering people by nearly running them over. Workers and supporters stood strong and prevented most people from entering the building. The level of militancy was high, and many workers suggested blocking the entrances with bails of hay, a tactic that was used at a recent HEU blockade in Chilliwack at which HEU leaders were arrested. The British Columbia Nurses Union told their workers to not pick up the slack for striking HEU members.

After a few hours workers and supporters boarded buses and headed to a march and rally downtown that was attended by thousands of people. Demonstrators chanted “Campbell’s Cuts are Class War” in reference to the premier of the province and his capitalist policies. Some demonstrators wore masks to protect their identities.

In Victoria HEU members and supporters occupied the Vancouver Island Health Authority offices and several demonstrators were arrested, including one HEU activist.

The vice president of the Health Employers’ Association called HEU members to announce that they are willing to negotiate with the union.

An HEU member responded by saying “it shows the power of people working together to say we’ve got to do the right thing. We’ve got to pressure to protect medicare, and we’ve got to fight for good-paying jobs, and the pressure is working.”

Report from May Day in Vancouver (2004)

Report from May Day in Vancouver

On May 1st of 2004, a small anarchist contingent joined about 10,000 workers at the May Day march and rally in downtown Vancouver which was organized by the BC Federation of Labour. The May Day Anarchist Organizing Group had come together and made a call-out for an anarchist contingent at the march, since we did not want to allow the union bureaucrats to totally co-opt and corrupt the spirit of May Day. Our goal was simply to have an anarchist presence at the event, with respect to May Day’s anarchist history, to unify our forces and connect with rank-and-file workers. We also took the initiative to organize an independent, anti-capitalist May Day parade on Commercial Drive later in the day.

In the week leading up to May Day, health care workers across the province had gone on strike and defied the government’s back-to-work legislation. Union and non-union workers in both the public and private sectors of the economy had gone on wildcat strike in solidarity with the health care workers and in response to the generalized attack of the Liberal government on all working and unemployed people in BC. This naturally added a lot of energy and potential to this year’s May Day.

About 10 masked-up anarchists gathered at the beginning of the BC Fed event, with black flags and arm shields which also served as percussion. Union marshals stood around next to the anarchists and then began to follow them as the march began. Some unknown comrades had spray-painted ‘General Strike’ slogans on walls near the meeting point, and a large banner with the words ‘General Strike. Solidarity is our Weapon.’ was hanging from some trees.

Another small crew of anarchists with black-and-red flags met up with the first group and formed a contingent. Together they initiated chants such as ‘General Strike’ and ‘What’s the solution? Revolution!’, while also using their batons and flag poles to bang on newspaper boxes. Another ‘General Strike’ banner was spotted hanging from a building along the route of the march.

There were a few negative comments from some demonstrators towards the anarchist contingent, but most people were either curious (and asked questions) or showed signs of support (thumbs up etc.)

Towards the end of the march the anarchists burned an effigy of Prime Minister Paul Martin which a union worker had handed to them. This attracted the attention of a bike cop who said something to the effect of ‘Nice to see you guys. Now leave.’

Since the anarchists were uninterested in listening to the union bureaucrats’ speeches they dissolved into the rally at the Art Gallery and left the scene.

Later in the afternoon, about 60 people took part in the un-permitted anti-capitalist May Day parade on Commercial Drive, chanting ‘We can’t wait until the next election! General Strike! Insurrection!’

In reference to the recent police ‘crack down’ in the area, and the string of attacks on the neighbourhood’s Community Policing station, the demonstrators chanted ‘No more pigs in our communities! Burn ’em down!’

A comrade also made a couple of short speeches during the march, reminding us of May Day’s anarchist roots and the police repression that Chicago anarchists faced more than 100 years ago.

A few angry motorists attempted to drive through the crowd, but were blocked from doing so. The march stopped at major traffic intersections to maximize disruption, but unfortunately there were no direct actions carried out along the route. Nonetheless, an angry and rebellious spirit was evident and several new faces took part (the majority of those in the march were not anarchists, but were people from the neighbourhood). There were no marshals, media spokespeople or police liaisons appointed. The event was organized autonomously. It was also the first specifically anarchist-organized May Day event in years. Previously, anarchists had simply participated in May Day marches put on by other organizations.

The following day, a group of anarchists returned to the picket lines at St. Paul’s hospital that they had been supporting for several days. Railway workers walked off the job and everyone was preparing for the General Strike which was supposed to take place the next day.

A General Strike was called off at the last minute by the BC Federation of Labour. A deal cut between the BC Fed and the Liberal government enforced 15% percent wage cuts, 600 layoffs, and a longer work week for health care employees. The unions and the government collaborated at the workers’ expense.

On May 3rd, the town of Quesnel was almost totally shut down by wildcat strikes. Cross-picketing by hospital workers in Nanaimo, Victoria, and on Salt Spring Island disrupted bus and ferry services. Teachers in Victoria walked off the job, and hospital workers in Kelowna tore up their picket signs and threw them at their union representative. Hospital Employees Union offices were picketed by union members in Burnaby and Victoria.

An anarchist group waved black flags outside the Vancouver General Hospital and passing motorists honked in support and yelled ‘General Strike!’. As the day went on, workers came out to the line and expressed their anger at the union bureaucrats and politicians. This rage was restated at a noon rally on the front steps of the hospital, during which workers aggressively pushed corporate journalists out of the area.

On May 4th, eight high school students in Prince Rupert walked out of a class and marched to City Hall and the local hospital in solidarity with health care workers.

At 8am on the morning of May 7th, union members and their supporters set up a hard picket line at the entrance to the BC Federation of Labour office in Burnaby, preventing bureaucrats from entering the building. On the other hand, workers (including postal employees) respected the picket line and bus drivers honked in support.

Despite their best efforts, the unions have not succeeded in completely crushing workers’ resistance. The possibility of ongoing worker self-organization and wildcat action is on the horizon.

Wildcat Strikes Sweep Across BC (2004)

Wildcat Strikes Sweep Across BC

Despite a sell-out deal signed between the Liberal government and the leaders of the BC Federation of Labour and Hospital Employees Union (HEU) which derailed a General Strike, several wildcat strikes took place on May 3. The deal will still mean 15% percent wage cuts, 600 layoffs, and a longer work week for health care workers, along with continued privatization.

Solidarity wildcat strikes have swept across this province in reponse to an attempt by the government to legislate an end to a legal province-wide health care worker strike against pay cuts and layoffs.

May 4 –

– Eight high school students in Prince Rupert walked out of a class and marched to City Hall and then to the hospital in solidarity with health care workers.

– At least two HEU members maintained a protest picket at the Burnaby headquarters of the union, but allowed workers inside so that strike pay could be issued.

May 3 –

– Royal Jubilee Hospital, Victoria General Hospital, Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health, Glengarry Hospital, Victoria City Hall, garbage collection, 6am ferry sailing shut down and 7am delayed at Swartz Bay by secondary pickets, early morning busses prevented from going out by secondary pickets (service did not resume untill about 1:30pm, and then only at 65% percent), some schools picketed (including Victoria High, Reynolds Secondary, and Eagle View Elementary, with about 30% percent of students staying home), and pickets around the Hospital Employees Union office and the Ministry of Health.

– Pickets at Stelly’s Secondary School in central Saanich.

– St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox.

– Surrey Memorial Hospital.

– St. Pauls Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital.

– Pickets at Burnaby Hospital Employees Union office.

– A small group of hospital workers set up pickets at a Langley hospital to protest the deal between the government and their union.

– 100 hospital workers on Saltspring Island maintained picket lines at the local hospital and seniors’ centre. Pickets at Long Harbour ferry terminal delayed 3:30pm sailing.

– Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, busses, garbage service, Naniamo Secondary School and other schools, school board office workers, school bus drivers (about a third of the district’s school busses didn’t run), building inspectors and planners, Departure Bay and Duke Point ferry workers

– Kelowna hospital workers tore up their picket signs and threw them at Ken Robinson, who sits on the local Hospital Employees Union executive. Pickets stayed up in defiance of the union’s back-to-work order. Some students disobeyed their parents and refused to go to school. About 27% percent of students didn’t show up for classes.

– One third of Kamloops students didn’t show up to classes.

– 3,000 Vernon students stayed home.

– Quesnel schools, mills, provincial government offices, city services, hospitals, school busses, grocery stores and liquor store. About 1,000 people demonstrated at the Quesnel Hospital in solidarity with the health care workers.

May 2 –

– Workers from all seven unions covering BC Rail walked out in support of the striking health care workers, shutting down all provincial rail service.

May 1 –

– Nurses wildcat strikes in Richmond and several hospitals on Vancouver Island.

– Striking health care workers picketed Norske Canada Pulp Mill in Campbell River. About half the workers walked out in a solidarity wildcat strike.

– Wildcat strike at Northwood Pulp and Paper Mill in Prince George.

– Juan de Fuca library in Greater Victoria area, and the Hartland landfill was shut down early in morning but opened later in the day.

– 5,000 to 10,000 workers marched through the streets of downtown Vancouver in the early afternoon as part of a May Day demonstration called by the BC Federation of Labour. A small anarchist contingent took part, some wearing masks and shields and flying black and black-and-red flags, chanting “General Strike!”

– At 4pm about 60 people took part in an unpermitted May Day march along Commercial Drive in Vancouver, chanting “We can’t wait untill the next election. General Strike! Insurrection!” and “No more pigs in our communities! Off the pigs/Burn ’em down!” and disrupting traffic at two major intersections.

April 30 –

– Vancouver City Hall, and the Manitoba Works Yard (garbage collection and city maintenance).

– First Tsawassen ferry sailing shut down.

– Victoria City Hall, Interurban campus of Camosun College, various schools, all seven Greater Victoria area libraries, transit yard cross-picketed by HEU members and supported by bus driver wildcat (shutting down bus service untill 10:15am), road workers, cleaners at schools and public buildings, some recrreation centres, and the city landfill.

– Schools in Saanich and Sooke.

– Municipal halls in Saanich, North Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Colwood, and Sidney.

– Cowichan Valley school maintenance workers.

– Kelowna City Hall, Kelowna International Airport, the local land-fill, public works yard and the water treatment plant was down to essential service levels.

– 1,400 BC Hydro workers walked out, but the union was providing essential services. BC Hydro workers picketed on Main Street in Lilloet.

– Nurses wildcat strikes in Nanaimo, Comox, Port Alberni, Campbell River, Kelowna and Richmond.

– Schools in the Gulf Islands, Mid-Island and Kamloops school districts.

– Municipal workers in a number of Vancouver Island locations as well as Prince George (garbage collection, City Hall, pools/recreation centres, pulp mill workers), Quesnel, Dawson Creek, Pitt Meadows and Richmond.

– Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) workers in Nelson, Trail and Castlegar staged marches and demonstrations.

– CUPE workers in Dawson Creek walked out, shutting down a public pool and two ice arenas. Public works and parks staff also went on wildcat strike.

– Municipal workers wildcat strike in Delta, including city hall, recreation centres and swimming pools.

– City workers walked out in Burnaby, including city hall and other facilities.

– Bus maintenence workers walked out in Kamloops.

– Wildcat strike at the Swartz Bay BC Ferries terminal. BC Ferries workers refused to cross a secondary picket line and vocally supported the picketers. One sailing was shut down and another was delayed.

– Forestry/woodworkers in Duncan.

– Two saw mills and two CUPE locals in Quesnel.

April 29 –

– Workers from the Office and Professional Workers Local 378 walked out.

– 800 BC Hydro workers at the W.A.C. Bennet, Revelstoke and Peace Canyon dams walked out. BC Hydro applied for injunctions against wildcat pickets.

– Hospital workers in Kelowna, Pentincton and Vernon went on wildcat strike, including essential services, and organized independently from the unions.


Victory to the Health Care Workers!
Let’s Start a Wildcat General Strike!

by the May Day Anarchist Organizing Group – Vancouver
April 29, 2004
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

43,000 health care workers across the province defied “back-to-work” legislation Saturday, April 29th, keeping picket lines up at hospitals and care homes in the fourth day of an all-out strike. They were joined by about 100 BC Hydro workers who spontaneously walked off the job in a solidarity wildcat strike at three dams, without the authorization of their union. CUPE union workers may walk out tomorrow, or in the next few days.

The Liberal government’s Bill 37 is intended to enforce wage cuts, increase the work week by 1.5 hours, and further privatize services. The cuts amount to $200 million dollars and another 2,500 layoffs are on the horizon.

In the January 2004 issue of “Business in Vancouver”, a survey of senior business executives listed “cutting health care costs” as what they considered should be the BC Liberal government’s top priority. The Liberals have been doing their best to please their business partners.

Since they came to power, more than 6,000 health care workers have been fired, hospitals have been closed, and services have been contracted out to multinational corporations.

But the workers have been fighting back. The current province-wide strike by the workers of the BC Hospital Employees Union (HEU) has been long-awaited, and is the culmination of a series of wildcat strikes, occupations and direct actions that workers have initiated themselves, often against the proposals of the HEU leadership executive. HEU covers food service workers, licensed practical nurses, cleaners and clerical workers. 85% percent are women and 31% percent are immigrants.

On October 8, 2002, HEU workers in Vancouver occupied the cafeteria at the Children and Women’s Hospital to fight privatization. Later in the week, workers confronted the privatization of food services by the French Sodexho corporation in an occupation at the Richmond Hospital. That same year, HEU workers called for a General Strike at their annual convention, and the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) also voted to include the General Strike In their “action plan.”

On January 28 of 2003, HEU workers took part in a wildcat strike at several Vancouver hospitals, set up hard picket lines in the morning and marched through the streets of downtown later in the day. This was followed by an occupation of the Health Authority office at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria the next day.

The workers began to show even more independent initiative when they rejected a deal the union executive wanted to sign with health employers which would have cut wages and benefits, and lowered working conditions in exchange for an end to the current wave of layoffs. The workers clearly wanted to fight rather than retreat.

They took action again in February of 2004, launching wildcat strikes in Victoria on the 24th and Nanaimo the next day. On April 1st, workers, students and unemployed people set up soft picket lines at both of Victoria’s hospitals, in a show of solidarity with the HEU worker’s upcoming provincial strike.

Many of the workers on the picket lines are openly criticizing their own union and its hesitance to take substantial action. Why did the union wait until now to strike, after more than 6,000 members had already been fired? Why did the union try to stall and prevent the strike for the past few weeks, constantly negotiating with health authorities despite an overwhelming strike vote by the workers? Because the jobs of the union executives are not on the line. Their job is, in fact, to manage and deflect the struggle of the workers, leading to demoralization and defeat. We should never forget about the union leaders’ betrayal of workers and community groups during the Solidarity movement in 1983, or the more recent negotiated sellout of the ferry workers’ struggle in December of 2003.

So now is a crucial time for workers to spread a rebellious spirit and continue to form worker action groups that are independent of the union bureaucracy. If the union bosses issue a back-to-work order, it should be disobeyed as well.

And now is the time for the rest of us to form action groups and open up new fronts in this class struggle. Whether we are immigrants, working and unemployed people fighting to get by in the cities, or indigenous people living on the land, our enemies are the same – multinational corporations, the Liberal government, and any self-proclaimed leader who tries to exploit our struggle to get a seat at the table with the bosses. Any one of us can take control of our lives and contribute to disrupting the economy. You can’t trust anyone who claims to represent you. Solidarity is our weapon.

The upcoming May Day events are a perfect chance for us to unify our forces and take the struggle to the streets.

– The Vancouver May Day Anarchist Organizing Group is a small group of anarchists who know and trust each other and came together to organize an anarchist contingent for the May Day Labour March and an anti-capitalist May Day parade on Commercial Drive. We’ve been postering and leafleting extensively, and talking with people on the street and on the health care workers’ picket lines to build the two events.

For the Labour March we’ll meet at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza, in the southwest corner (at the corner of Georgia and Hamilton Streets) – May 1st, 11:00am, Vancouver. Bring black flags, drums, pots and pans and noise-makers!!!

Followed by the May Day Parade and Anarchist May Day Action, 4:00pm at Grandview Park on Commercial Drive, with free food. Bring black flags, drums, pots and pans and noise-makers!!!

Revolutionary May Day – Vancouver 2004:

– Call-out for court solidarity with John Graham

The history of May Day is as much about the struggle against police and legal repression as it is about the fight for shorter working hours. John Graham is an indigenous man from the Yukon who is being framed by the FBI and is currently under house arrest in Vancouver. Come out to his extradition hearing. Don’t let the United States government extradite him.

Show up tomorrow, Friday, April 30th, at the Supreme Court (800 Hornby) at 9:30am in the morning.

Free John Graham:

Thoughts On the Illegal British Columbia Teachers Strike (2005)


East Van students' banners

Thoughts On the Illegal British Columbia Teachers Strike

Tuesday, October 11, 2005
by Sam Gamgee

Picket lines went up at schools across the province on Friday, as the 42,000 members of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) kicked-off an illegal strike in defiance of the BC Liberal government’s Bill 12, the legislation that extends the existing contract between teachers and their employers until the end of June. Prior to the introduction of Bill 12, teachers had voted to strike for a wage increase, smaller class sizes, and improved conditions for both teachers and students. Some 25,000 school support workers from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are respecting teachers’ picket lines and often joining the lines in solidarity.

The existing contract was imposed on the BCTF by the Liberal government in 2002 through legislation that removed limits on class sizes. It also included a 2.5%-per-year salary increase over three years, but the government did not fund this, and the employers association deferred the cost by axing about 2,600 teaching positions. Teachers held a one-day illegal strike and protest against the legislation in 2002, but still received pay from the employers association, who apparently saw the limited strike as a way for teachers to “blow off steam”, providing for the continued efficient functioning of the engine of the education system.

This time around, Bill 12 was introduced with the intention of preventing a legal teachers strike. The Labour Relations Board, which was established by the New Democratic Party (NDP) government in the 1970s, has ordered teachers to return to their classrooms. The BC Supreme Court has ruled that the teachers are in contempt-of-court. The BCTF could be hit with massive fines and its president could be thrown in jail.

For days now, Liberal Labour Minister Mike de Jong and premier Gordon Campbell have been blathering incessantly about the bad example teachers are setting for their students by taking illegal action. “In a society built around the rule of law, you don’t get to pick and choose because if that’s how we’re going to run this thing then we’re one step away from anarchy,” said de Jong.

NDP leader Carole James has simply added her voice to the government’s chorus on the illegality of the strike.

For the government, the ‘rule of law’ is that the ruling class makes the law, and this perspective does not depend on party affiliation. It was an NDP government that legislated CUPE school support staff back to work in April of 2000. In response, the BC Federation of Labour (BCFed) and CUPE cried outrage and publicly questioned their affiliation with the NDP. Jim Sinclair, president of the BCFed, proclaimed that the NDP could not count on labour support in the spring of 2001 provincial election. “Some people may just not go to the polling places,” he said.

Of course, when that election came along, the NDP was almost eliminated from the legislature, securing only two seats. The Liberals then began to enact their highly unpopular program of political and economic restructuring which attacked everyone but the employer class of the province. Government employees were laid-off, union contracts were shredded, the six-dollar training wage was implemented, welfare was slashed, and a racist propaganda ‘referendum’ on treaties with Native band councils was held. In December of 2003, the Liberals ordered striking ferry workers back to their jobs. In April of 2004, Liberal legislation made a Hospital Employees Union (HEU) strike illegal. Without the support of rank-and-file workers, BCFed and HEU bureaucrats signed a deal with the Liberals that slashed HEU members’ wages and did nothing to stop the privatization of health care by multinational corporations. The BCFed self-policed their symbolic protests during the Liberals’ first term, while collaborating with the government’s cops, and counseled us to merely vote the NDP back into power rather than take economic action, such as the general strike that could have taken place in May of 2004. And after all that, the BCFed couldn’t even get the NDP elected.

Are we supposed to believe that the endless stream of strike-breaking legislation from both the dominant parties, and its support by the courts, are mere coincidence? Or do politicians and the apparatus of government serve the interests of the corporate class to which politicians belong?

What are slaves if not people who lack the freedom to refuse to work for their masters?

Why should anyone trust the BCFed, given their collaboration with the Liberals and with the Social Credit Party under a similar ruling class offensive back in 1983?

Many teachers and their supporters on the picket lines want a general strike, as they understand that such an action could beat back the government’s legislation. And where there’s a will there’s a way. Direct action and solidarity only require self-organization, communication, determination, and creativity. And anyone can put these into practice with a little effort. The economy can be struck at the points of production, distribution and consumption through walk-outs, occupations, blockades, sabotage, and the free re-allocation of goods and services.

Self-organization is the only alternative to the cynical manipulations of politicians and union bureaucrats, which define politics itself. You can’t ask permission to be free, or delegate your freedom to an official representative. Direct action, and solidarity that stretches beyond the confines of the unions, are weapons in the struggle against the bosses of this world. It’s here that we find an interesting question: ‘In which ways can we combine our creativity in the conflict with our class enemy?’

A Rent Strike in Vancouver (1971)

A Rent Strike in Vancouver (1971)

[…] a rent strike in Vancouver, British Columbia, illustrates this ripple effect, or expanding concession principle. Direct action tends to spread. The more a landowner thinks direct action by tenants is imminent, the more likely he or she is to make preemptive concessions.

The Vancouver rent strike failed for strikers but yielded a success for many other tenants. It targeted buildings managed by Wall and Redekop for five months and began with a high degree of participation. After Wall and Redekop announced 9 to 10% rental increases for all units inhabited for over a year, 195 tenants collectively deposited their rents into a Vancouver Tenants Council (VTC) escrow account on April 1, 1971. By August of the same year, only 18 tenants remained on strike, against all of whom the court ordered eviction. Tenants failed to achieve the main VTC goal, a legal right to collective bargaining where voted for by a majority of tenants. In an illustration of the ripple effect, however, the strike did yield victories for other tenants in Vancouver.

According to the VTC, “Scores of individual tenants had their increases `voluntarily’ reduced by Wall and Redekop in an attempt to dissuade them from joining the strike …. [N]o tenant who was legally `eligible’ for a rent increase commencing on May 1 st has subsequently received a notice of an increase from Wall and Redekop.”

Even tenants in Vancouver not under management by Wall and Redekop benefited by the strike. “Corporate landlords in the city,” states the VTC, “did not raise rent arbitrarily during the course of the strike.” In an atmosphere charged with the idea of rent strike, almost all landlords perceived the danger of providing provocation for further strikes. Even those considering the purchase of rental property in Vancouver may have paused for a short period before buying. In this way, the strike’s atmosphere of tenant resistance slowed the rate of rent increases for the average Vancouver tenant. [25]

The ripple effect creates positive spillover benefits for the non-striker from the work and risks of the striker, but strikers can use the effect to their advantage. By showing how the rent strike benefits non-strikers, they win non-striker support. Supporters see the success of squatting and rent strikes as movement toward a solution to their own housing problems.

[25] Tongue, Mousey. “Redekop Drops by Flop.” Georgia Straight, 4/30/71, p. 2; Tugwell, Tony. “Rent Strike Helps Everybody.” Georgia Straight, 6J11/71, p. 9; Tugwell, Tony.”Wall Redekop Rent Strike.” Georgia Straight, 6/18/71, p. 2; Tongue, Mousey. “22,000 Withheld: Rent Strike.” Georgia Straight, 3/31/71, p. 3; Balaclava, Nigel. “Wall and Redekop is No Two-Bit Operation.” Georgia Straight, 7/30/71, p. 2; Tenants Council. “Tenants Council Statement Re: Wall & Redekop.” Georgia Straight, 8/20/71, p. 10.

by Anders Corr