Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Squeezing the middle by Ken Lewenza, CAW National President

Sociologists have convincingly documented rising inequality in Canada. A lucky few - large business owners, top executives, highly specialized professionals - have captured the lion's share of the meagre gains generated by our troubled economy. Statistics reveal the top one per cent of Canadians pocketed 31 per cent of all new income generated in 10 years. The bottom 99 per cent had to fight over the rest.
Most Canadians are guaranteed nothing by our lean, mean, globalized economy. Even university-educated specialists (like accountants or programmers) have been squeezed by new technology, and by trade rules which allow corporations to outsource any job to the lowest global bidder.
As for hourly workers, their real earnings are no higher than a quarter century ago. Given the productive potential of our skills and technology (both of which are better than ever), this constitutes an enormous economic and social failure. A healthy economy generates mass prosperity. Ours, increasingly, does not.
About the only structural protections most Canadians have going for them are public programs (like health care, education and pensions), and unions (to help equalize their power with employers). Yet these are under attack, too, from the same governments that allow (even glorify) the social irresponsibility of corporations. Governments are cutting the social wage as employers try to slash money wages. They stand by as unions fight for their lives. And they give global companies free rein to take over our resources, and our factories, with no commitments whatsoever to future Canadian interests.
So while the academics may debate the fine points of the income statistics, the overall trend is obvious: inequality is growing and the middle is being squeezed out. Companies feel no compulsion to pay living wages to their workers. And they hold all the cards at the bargaining table - including the "ace," which is their unfettered ability to shut down and move someplace cheaper. Governments have reneged on their responsibility to protect average Canadians.
No better example for this depressing long-run trend could be found than the current dispute at the Electro-Motive facility in London, Ont. Thanks to their productivity, their high skills (including highly specialized welding and assembly techniques), and their union, Electro-Motive workers today are still proudly in the middle. They make good wages, but they're hardly rich. They live decently, send their children to college, retire in security and enjoy good benefit programs in the event of injury or illness. Electro-Motive has a long and proud history in Canada, operating productively and profitably here for over six decades. It is Canada's only locomotive manufacturing facility. It's a crucial industrial asset, at a moment when governments around the world are investing massively in railway infrastructure.
Then suddenly the plant and its workers were confronted with an unprovoked and fearsome attack, after Caterpillar bought the company in 2010.
Ottawa didn't even bother reviewing the takeover, let alone attaching conditions. Immediately Caterpillar began building a second assembly plant in Indiana, where non-union workers compete for insecure, poverty-level wages.
Within the year a new plant was also announced for Brazil and more work was shipped to Mexico. Consistent with its reputation for all-out industrial warfare, Caterpillar tabled a list of demands (including slashing wages in half) that is more aggressive and offensive than any I have encountered in my three decades of trade union experience.
We wish dearly that Caterpillar had never bought Electro-Motive. The company's actions are the economic equivalent of a home invasion. And we are infuriated that our governments have done nothing to protect the interests of Canadians. By their silence and inaction, government sides with an enormous, irresponsible global corporation that is making record-level profits and whose CEO rakes in $10 million per year, as it sacrifices the future well-being of hundreds of frightened Canadian families.
Some labour-management conflicts are complicated, with both sides wearing some of the blame. Not this one. Caterpillar marched into London, Ont. with one clear goal: destroy the union and eliminate decent pay at Electro-Motive, or else shut it down and leave. Either way, it's one more step toward growing inequality in Canada.
The CAW will do everything we can to resist Caterpillar's immoral aggression against our country. We are backed by widespread community support, a reinvigorated labour movement and moral legitimacy.
At the same time, our willingness to bargain a responsible, realistic agreement with the company is unchanged. There are many proposals that we can entertain; but tossing hundreds of Canadian families into the bottom of the heap is not one of them.
At the end of the day, the union alone can't protect the vision of an inclusive, prosperous economy. Without our governments living up to their responsibility to ensure that the wealth we produce is shared fairly and equitably, our vision for a just society doesn't stand a chance - at Electro-Motive, or anywhere else in Canada.
Ken Lewenza is CAW National President - (Reprinted with permission)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Electromotive Diesel Rally

You are no doubt aware of the tenuous situation involving members of CAW Local 27 at Electro-Motive Diesel / EMD.   Approximately 400 members were locked out by US-based Caterpillar Incorporated on New Years' Day when they refused  to accept a Collective Agreement that would see wages and benefits cut by over 50%.  As Chris Townsend who studies labour relations for the United Electrical Workers in Washington has said, "This is a rogue company that will wage war on its workers to get what it wants.  We now have a massive number of workers here who work full time yet live in poverty."  This avarice comes from Caterpillar where the top eight executives were paid $67.6 million in 2010, a company that showed a profit of $1.14 billion, up 44% from the same quarter in 2010.  (Sun Media)

The ETFO Thames Valley Occasional Teachers' Local stands in solidarity with CAW Local 27.
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) is organizing a Day of Action  on Saturday, January 21, 2012. ETFO Provincial President Sam Hammond and members of the ETFO Provincial Executive will be in attendance as will many of our OT colleagues and leaders from across the province.

All members of the ETFO Thames Valley Occasional Teachers' Local should consider participating in the OFL Day of Action to demonstrate their support for the workers at EMD. The Rally will take place on Saturday January 21, 2012 at Victoria Park in London at 11:00a.m.
It is our hope that the situation at Electro-Motive will be resolved quickly and in the best interests of the members of CAW Local 27.  To that end we will continue to do what we can to help our friends in this time of need.

We are calling on all Thames Valley Occasional Teachers to come out and show support.  Bring family and friends.  A $5.00 Tim Horton's gift cards will be given to the first 100 people who make their attendance known to Terry Card.  Look for our ETFO Thames Valley Occasional Teachers' flags.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012 Here We Are!

Welcome back!  Talk about 'hitting the ground running'........ by now you should have received the January 2012 edition of The Supply Line.  Please take the time to read it as it contains many important articles you will find relevant!
One important article centers around the limited return of the feature on TVARRIS -  "Job Shopping".  This is the computer function that shows OTs any available Jobs and enables us to accept assignments via computer.  This time around, "Job Shopping" will only be available for Jobs that are entered later in the morning i.e., for filling afternoon jobs of that day.  Some questions you may have, are answered in this edition of The Supply Line.

Your PD committee, chaired by Vivek Nath, is planning many offerings for you.  Registration is open for the following:

Boutique Style Professional Development:  These after school workshops are limited to 15 participants per session.  Workshops are held at our OT Offices, 521 Nottinghill Road, Suite 8 in London, from 4:30 PM - 7:30 PM and a light supper will be provided.  Register by email to .  The following are just a few of the workshops planned so be sure to check regularly for further selections.

1) An Introduction for Beginners to The Daily Five: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades   January 17, 2012.
2) Teaching Through Problem Solving Using the 3-Part Lesson (K-6)  February 2, 2012
3) An Overview of "Growing Success"   February 8, 2012
4) Taking a French Assignment without FSL  January 31, 2012
5) Literacy: Effective Writing  February 27, 2012

On March 7, 2012, again from 4:30 PM - 7:30 PM, we will be offering another PD event at the Lamplighter. Check our website www.etfotvots for the selection of Math based workshops that will be offered by the Local that evening, then register by email to: by 4 PM,  March 4, 2012.

Also, mark the following date in your calendar - May 24, 2012, will be our Spring General Meeting at the Best Western Lamplighter Inn.  Contact to register.

For news about the Local, check us out on TWITTER@etfotvot for emergent news and subscribe to our blog with news each Wednesday.  Both these can also be monitored from our Local website
To contact your Local for event registration email the event planner at  Please direct all other inquiries to
N.B. We do not use the Board's First Class email system for union business.

On another note, you have likely heard about the current labour situation in London where 425 union members at Electro-Motive Diesel were locked out after rejecting Caterpillar's final offer that would slash worker wages and benefits by 55%.  Caterpillar bought this former GM Diesel plant in 2010, milked the benefits of a billion-dollar tax break trumpeted on the plant floor by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and enjoyed profits of 41 million dollars last year.  Through their subsidiaries, Caterpillar has a lengthy history of fighting unions and moving plants to lower-cost jurisdictions; they have just dusted off an abandoned locomotive factory in Muncie, Indiana with jobs paying between $12-15 an hour. It is estimated that the London plant supports about 1,200 supply jobs in the London area.
The Ontario Federation of Labour is organizing a mass rally in London on Saturday, January 21st and ETFO President Sam Hammond, VP James McCormack and several other Executive members plan to attend. We are hoping many of our OT colleagues can join us as well.  The rally begins at 11 AM and depending on your interest, OTs could plan to assemble at our office where we can rent a bus and travel together for effect. Alternatively, we could meet at the permanent Teachers offices, though they are just working out the details at their end as well. (Hopefully we will have our new flags at hand too)
Please let us know ASAP if you plan to participate and how many you would be bringing so that we can make the necessary arrangements. We respect how busy everyone is, but this is union-busting behaviour that may be symptomatic of what is to come and we need to take a stand.
Thanks for your consideration.