The Ontario Federation of Labour’s Enough is Enough campaign, which launched in January, has been an opportunity to build a broad-based movement to challenge the bosses and build the power to fight for a better Ontario. The campaign’s five core demands: 1. Real wage increases for all; 2. Strong public services for all; 3. Bills we can afford; 4. Rent control/affordable housing; and 5. Make the rich pay, have attempted to unite anger in the province on a class-basis.
On June 3rd, the province-wide day of action for the campaign, saw actions across the Ontario, including an impressive sized rally in Toronto. Unions and community groups mobilized thousands to take to the streets. It was a show of force that was a testament to the appetite of workers to unify to take on Ford’s agenda.
The Enough is Enough campaign has led to meetings all over the province and helped activists inside and outside of unions talk to their coworkers and community members through postering, leafleting, coffee chats and signing people up to get involved on street corners and outside hospitals and grocery stores.
That activity has put people who are interested in organizing and building a united fightback against cutbacks and price-gouging by the government and corporations into contact with eachother. This is the kind of infrastructure we need to be able to build working class power and fightback in Ontario and beyond.
One-off protests, no matter how big, will not by themselves deliver significant reforms. Rallies and actions, like those on June 3, are merely moments. Moments are important. They can show us our power. They can bring together like-minded individuals to network and plan. And, importantly, they can help create a network of worker activists who see a united, class-based solution to the problems facing the province. The goal now has to be to strengthen those connections.
It is important that activists who have been involved with the Enough is Enough campaign do not simply move on to the next thing. The relationships and networks built around the campaign must continue to be nurtured.
The campaign has afforded the workers’ movement with an opportunity to not only draw in new activists, but to forge links between different issues impacting workers’s lives. One of the great challenges the working class faces in advancing its interests is disunity and sectionalism. Some workers are fighting for better wages, others for more affordable housing and others for stronger public services. Issue-based campaigning and workplace bargaining are key, but they sometimes can lead to working class fragmentation.
The Enough is Enough campaign gives us the chance to build unity and common purpose within the working class. Bargaining issues in unions – like wages, job security and paid sick days – can be seen as part of a broader fight that involves the whole class. We can link the fight for rent control and the fight for higher wages and social assistance.
Local networks of activists around the Enough is Enough campaign should continue to meet and strategize about how to build the campaign. This should include relating the campaign to workers who are bargaining, locked out or on strike; providing solidarity to any group of workers in struggle. It also means doing outreach activities and petitioning in our local communities and using that contact info to build further actions. Organizing poster runs to keep people active and keep the campaign visible is an easy step. If there are local rallies or protests about defending public services, tenant rights, stronger social assistance in your community showing up in solidarity with Enough is Enough materials and getting people connected should be another priority going forward.
Over this past year, unions and workers in Ontario have begun to move and take on the cost of living crisis. 2022 saw an uptick in strikes and the number of people participating in strikes and person days lost due to work stoppages. A number of high profile strikes, including the carpenters and education workers strikes, were animated by the cost of living crisis and driven by the rank and file. This is in stark contrast to the low participation in provincial and municipal elections of that year.
Unity through action
The appetite for action to address the many issues facing workers in Ontario exists. But it is also clear that there is much work to be done to rebuild rank and file networks inside unions to be able to connect that appetite with action. Those of us in the Enough is Enough campaign can’t rest on our laurels and wait for flare ups. We need to be taking this campaign into our workplaces and use it as a tool to draw more of our coworkers into activity. We can use it to organize action, push our locals to do more activity, and move away from bureaucratic routines. In this way, the Enough is Enough campaign can be used to build real rank and file networks.
Hundreds of activists in the Enough is Enough campaign have gotten connected on the Slack organizing space. This space should be leveraged to coordinate future actions and build relationships with organizers across the province in different unions and community groups. Thousands of people have signed onto the wesayenough.ca form and signed the Enough is Enough petition. This gives us an opportunity to connect with people attracted to the campaign demands.
The Justice for Workers campaign, which draws together non-union and union workers in the fight for stronger labour laws and higher wages, has been a vital to organizing efforts. Their province-wide meetings have been an important organizing hub for activists around the Enough is Enough campaign. We should aim to keep building these meetings and using them to coordinate actions with other worker activists. The next meeting is June 5, let’s build it as it will be an important chance to share experiences and lessons from organizing the June 3 day of action and plan on next steps.
Building rank and file power
Working class militancy is not built in an instance or through declarations. It is built through systematic organizing that is nimble enough to relate to upsurges of wider class activity and consistent enough to build relationships and activity in between those moments. We should have a long-term perspective about building wider networks of activist workers inside our unions and in broader social movements. In this way we can advance the political education of our fellow workers and build the kinds of organization we need to act independently.
In November 2022, unions were on the verge of a general strike over Ford’s Bill 28. CUPE’s education workers were on an illegal strike and OPSEU education workers joined in a wildcat strike. However, the call for a general strike was made and unmade, behind closed doors, by the labour bureaucracy. We saw a glimmer of the power workers have when we are united and asserting our power in the workplace and in the streets.
To truly assert that power across the province we are going to need to build a base of rank and file activists who are rooted in workplaces and social movements and are connected through shared experience of ongoing struggle. Building that unity in action around a clear set of demands and a shared understanding of the cost of living crisis and who is to blame, can build that rank and file base so that the next general strike can’t just be called off behind closed doors.
The June 3 day of action, along with the Ontario Health Coalition referendum, showed there is a real appetite to resist Ford’s agenda. The Enough is Enough campaign presents an opening to build rank and file networks of activists across the province via a shared campaign. It is an opportunity to draw new people into struggle and build real class unity. This is why it should be a top priority for activists inside and outside the labour movement who want to challenge Ford and his big business agenda.
If you are in Toronto, join Spring for a discussion “What’s a general strike and how can we make it happen?” on June 15 at 6pm – 720 Spadina Ave. #202.
Did you like this article? Help us produce more like it by donating $1, $2, or $5. Donate