How can we defeat Ford and the big business agenda in Ontario? This is the question that faces the labour movement and the broader left in the province.
There will be a strong pull by those wanting to defeat Ford to simply call for a vote or endorse the NDP. Likewise, others will dreamcast strategies to take on Ford that have no reflection in the existing balance of forces. Both of these approaches are profoundly passive.
Pushing a working class agenda
However, there is an emerging opening that can help unite and advance the broader struggle against Ford through practical action. The Ontario Federation of Labour’s broad based working class vision about what this province should look like contained in the OFL vision document was unanimously passed at its convention last year. As we outlined in our previous article, we believe the best way to take on Ford is to put the fight for workers’ issues front and centre.
The Left can’t just say Ford is bad or mishandled the pandemic, nor can it simply say vote NDP. It needs to draw people into activity around issues that resonate; issues like paid sick days, ending misclassification, a higher minimum wage, justice for migrant workers, stronger income supports, removing the wage cap in the public sector, investing in healthcare and transit, fighting for injured workers, bringing in childcare, etc.
Leading and fighting on issues is key. Through direct political activity movements can shift the political terrain. There is a transformative impulse to action that creates the possibility for change that simply never arises via a passive platform. Winning popular support for issues pressures political parties to respond and creates the basis to win these reforms no matter who is in government.
The OFL action plan outlines some steps about how to advance the working class agenda. The plan is to organize a mass activist assembly of union and community members on March 6. The aim of the assembly is to plan for May 1st, International workers day. The activist assembly will plan local May 1st demonstrations across the province that highlight key working class issues.
The goal of the May 1st Day of Action is to draw in new layers of people and centre key demands of the workers agenda to not only shape the nature of the election, but build momentum to fight on these issues beyond the election.
Opportunity for the left
This is an opportunity for the left to build and extend rank and file networks. To draw new people into struggle, break out of passivity and remind workers that they deserve better. This is also an opportunity for the left to unite and advance, which is a change of gears from the cynicism, critique and pessimism which pervades in some corners of the left.
Some may treat this as a place for radical lobbying – demanding trade union leadership or the NDP do this or that. That way lies ruin. There is an opening to actually build the basis for our ideas and to grow our collective movements. But this requires us to do the work. New networks of workers are popping up, new campaigners and new students are looking to connect. If we lead with cynicism and radical passivity we are dead in the water.
We need to expand the river we swim in. We can do this by leading with messages that unite, building confidence and building leadership in others.
Five ways to build for March 6
To build the March 6 Activist Assembly, it is important to remember that we want to make sure that the organizing meeting is representative of the communities that we live in and that no one is left behind. Also, before you ask others to take action make sure you will do the same.
- Register to attend the Activist Assembly by visiting the OFL event website found here: https://ofl.ca/event/activist-assembly-2022/.
- Share on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and more) about why you will be attending the Activist Assembly. This will help to build excitement for the event and will motivate others as to why they should attend. Also, be sure to use the #Justice4Workers hashtag.
- Invite your friends, family members, co-workers, your union and community organizations that you are affiliated with. Remind them of the devastating cuts to services and the impact that the Ford government has had on workers and communities over the last 3 years. Make sure to check out the OFL’s Ford Tracker that details all of the cuts and decisions that Ford has made.
- Follow-up with one-on-one conversations. A few days before the activist assembly, remind your network of the event and confirm that they will still be attending. The pandemic has been rough on everyone and a quick reminder is a great way to ensure that your contacts that have registered will still be attending.
- Reach out to other activists and community groups in your area. Ford’s cuts have been detrimental to all and to ensure that the event is representative of all of our needs, be sure to reach out to the groups in your area and send them an invite. Groups such as Indigenous Friendship Centres, Black liberation movements, transit groups, housing rights organizations, faith and spiritual groups, migrant worker organizations, community based language organizations, climate justice groups, anti-war groups, student organizations (Student unions, PIRGs, Women and Trans Centre, etc.), Ontario health coalition and district labour councils.
5 tips for the activist assembly breakout groups
During the March 6 activist assembly, activists will be placed in issues-based and regional breakout groups. Sometimes discussions in breakout groups can get off topic or there isn’t a plan in place to follow-up. Below are some quick tips to ensure you make the most out of the activist assembly.
- Remember to share contact information. During the breakout groups there will be lots of time for discussion, but do not make the mistake of forgetting to get your new comrades’ contact information so that you can follow-up for future plans.
- Create a spreadsheet of the follow-up items and decide who will take on what tasks and what the deadline will be. This will ensure that your discussion turns into action items.
- Plan your next organizing meeting. Throughout the activist assembly many ideas will be tossed around, ensure that a follow-up meeting is planned so that comrades can provide a report back on the action items from the meeting.
- Advocate for how we can bring more community members and activists to come out to the May 1 Day of Action for a Workers First Agenda. Ask yourselves the following questions: Who is missing from the discussion? Who else do we want to invite? What issues speak to different communities? Who will reach out to them?
- Throughout the meeting, take note of who is and is not participating in the discussion. For folks who haven’t contributed a lot, ask them how they feel about the plan and if they have any additional ideas they want to add in.
We want to make sure that the March 6 activist assembly is as big and effective as possible. We need to leverage the new relationships built in the organizing meeting so that we can continue to build a strong working class movement and have tangible steps so that we can move forward. Be sure to sign up for the March 6, OFL Activist Assembly happening on Zoom here: https://ofl.ca/event/activist-assembly-2022/.
The activist assembly is a real opening to forge a broad based movement to take on Ford and the big business lobby. Let’s seize it.
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