Recent correspondence from Ken Georgetti (President of the Canada Labour Congress) and Michel Arsenault of the FTQ (Provincial Labour Central of Quebec) and various officers in the broader Anglophone Labour Movement sends a clear message: labour jurisdiction trumps labour solidarity. Arsenault, and through his endorsement, Georgetti believe that this is the time to “facilitate a settlement instead of fueling fires”.
Aresenault wrote to Georgetti on May 28th, saying that the “radical wings” are not to be “promoted” in order to facilitate an agreement. It seem that to him, an agreement in itself is more important than a victory for the students and workers of Quebec. The message is clear, class peace at all costs. He says the students are tired and have been fighting a long time as a reason why they should not be supported. This is pathetic.
In response, Georgetti wrote to the CLC Canadian Council on May 28th, responding to “rumours” that some of the CLC “national affiliates plan to organize potential illegal actions in Quebec” in solidarity with the student strike. Georgetti points out that “matters in the province of Quebec are the jurisdiction of the FTQ” and so “it will be the decision of the FTQ to request external support actions of affiliates through the CLC.” Until then, CLC affiliates are supposed to avoid support actions. He closes his letter saying “I know that all affiliates and federations respect the jurisdiction of the FTQ in their province and hope that such rumours are simply rumours and not fact.” See the original letter here.
Georgetti’s letter was a response to a letter from Michael Arsenault of the FTQ, writing to express concern “that labour leaders in English Canada intended to come and support the social conflict” in Quebec. Arsenault reminded Georgetti that Quebec is the FTQ’s jurisdiction, so the CLC should stay out. Aside from jurisdictional issues, Arsenault wrote that the FTQ has “been asking for compliance to Law 12 to avoid having to pay significant fines.” More importantly, “radical wings are calling for social strike and we do not believe that this is THE strategy to be promoted for the moment. We have to understand that, despite their apparent strength, the student associations are exhausted and worried about what comes next. We think, at the moment, the best approach is to facilitate a settlement instead of fueling the fires. It is in fact possible that the Government and student associations meet early in the week for a round of bargaining; we believe that it is necessary for foster the best atmosphere for this
operation to be successful.” See the original here.
And here’s Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, an affiliate of the CLC, on June 8th: “We have received the following information from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) regarding the Quebec student protests. At this time, we are recommending that there be no official support or donation be made
in the name of OSSTF/FEESO as per the memo from the CLC and the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ), which are attached.” See the original here.
Let’s be clear, union leaders work for union members. They are not at the top of a chain of command and if the leadership want to use the unions as a tool to obstruct solidarity instead of facilitate it then the leadership should be ignored or discarded. The CLASSE did this through their mass assemblies and so can we.
We here at Recomposition encourage workers to continue to push their unions to donate to the CLASSE legal defence fund, to continue to support the struggle in Quebec in any way possible and to not wait for direction from above. You can use paypal.com to donate to support the strike via CLASSE. Make your donation to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send a cheque by mail by writing to
Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante
2065 Parthenais Street, Suite 383
Montreal, QC H2K 3T1
Be sure to write “CLASSE Legal Committee” in the memo line.
Solidarity is not an empty slogan, it is an act of defiance against a world dominated by greed and narrow self-interest. We need to ask Georgetti, Arsenault, and the rest of the labour movement: Which side are you on?
For more information on the Quebec student struggles, see http://www.bloquonslahausse.
UPDATE: This post has been changed to include another way that people can donate to CLASSE and to reflect two corrections. “Radical elements” has been corrected to “radical wings,” and that quote has been attributed to Michel Arsenault.