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Solidarity march with locked-out Quebec workers

Toronto Steelworkers join solidarity action in Trois-Rivières
By: 
Carolyn Egan

June 14, 2019

Over 6,000 primarily industrial workers from all over Quebec traveled to Trois-Rivières on Saturday, May 25th to show solidarity with locked out Steelworkers at ABI, a smelter owned by ALCOA.

Members of USW Local 9700 have been on the picket line since January 2018, through two long winters, standing up to corporate greed and attempts to take away hard won union rights. The most recent agreement was rejected by 93% of the workers, showing their courage and determination.

They say that they are fighting not just for themselves but for the working class of Quebec and all of Canada. The members feel that if they give in to concessions it will be a slippery slope, and workplace after workplace will be subject to the same demands.

It is worth noting that a full bus of Steelworkers from Toronto made the nine-hour trip back and forth to show their solidarity. Four van loads came from Local 1005 in Hamilton as well. These very diverse, English speaking members were greeted with great enthusiasm by the almost all white, Francophone Metallos. Very few could speak each other’s language but there was a real camaraderie. There were also Unifor members as well as workers from United Food and Commercial Workers, and the Machinists.

The smelter, situated on the St. Lawrence River, is a major part of the ALCOA empire and the company has lost over $200 million since locking out the workers. There have been strong strike votes by Steelworker locals at ALCOA facilities in the US. The hope is that with aluminum tariffs being lifted, the possibility of further work actions, and the resolve of the Quebec workers, a win could be had. The event was meant to show the owners that these workers were not about to back down and that they had strong support beyond themselves and their families. Unifor has been the largest contributor to the strike fund, which shows the cross-union solidarity in tough times.

The march wound through the streets of the small city and there was clear enthusiasm from the residents, even Ursuline nuns were waving. Quebec Solidaire was the only political party invited to speak, which is very significant because of the progressive policies it espouses and the battle it is waging against the public ban on religious symbols.

These types of actions are critical to winning against employers and giving confidence to the workers that they should stay the course. Working class solidarity is key, particularly across racial, gender and language lines. This was a very important action and hopefully will bring the workers closer to a victory over ALCOA.

 

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Solidarity with locked-out ABI workers in Trois-Rivières

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