Labour Betrayal

Why cheerlead for the unions when they hang us out to dry?

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An open letter to labour.

The Toronto labour council wants to know if my group, the Radical Cheerleaders, will come and cheer at an OPSEU rally. Part of me wants to say no, thank you. Forget it. Never again. Why should we, the young, support you when you turned your backs on us?This letter is about what happened at the Tory convention two weekends ago. This letter is because I feel betrayed and stabbed in the back by the labour movement.

On the Monday before the Tory convention protests, I went with other Radical Cheerleaders to support the OPSEU picket lines. We are all busy people who work, are full-time students and almost full-time activists, but we came to support brothers and sisters standing up to the provincial government. We went to picket lines big and small and encouraged people to join our protest at Allan Gardens on Saturday.

But when we arrived on that day, it was apparent that the labour movement had managed to convince rank- and-file members to boycott the Ontario Common Front demonstrations.

As I moved into the crowd, the lack of union flags made me very sad.

At one point in the march, some protestors tried to take over the street. I naively expected that we would be met by a large labour contingent that surely by now would have been alerted to what was happening.

Sadly, no one came. Very close to the Convention Centre, a small group of labour unionists, mostly from the CAW, did try to join us, and the crowd broke into a very excited yet solemn chant of “So-so-solidarity.”

We arrived at Simcoe Park to find out that labour, which had organized its protest for the same time as ours, had left. Apparently, they hightailed it out before we arrived. We had our own rally, but many of us felt defeated, deflated and abandoned. Some of my friends at the labour march said union leaders were alerted to the situation at the other demo but were unconcerned.

Why should I show solidarity with a movement that constantly demonizes anti-poverty activists? Why should I have to remind labour leaders that unions would not exist without militant direct action?

The police were acting in an attempt to keep our march away from the labour rally, and if they had failed, if we had joined together, there likely would not have been as much police violence. Solidarity is not a word that can be thrown around without reflecting on its meaning and acknowledging when it has been abandoned. Sol. Kim Fry is a student activist, Radical Cheerleader and former NDP candidate.

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