Category: Racial Justice and Anti-Racism

Group wants level employment playing field

By admin, October 6, 2011 3:44 pm

Posted on Wednesday October 05, 2011

By Jasminee Sahoye

The local chapter of an organisation that represents Africans around the world wants to see a better and more comprehensive employment equity legislation in Ontario.

The Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity (Toronto) is calling on the three major political parties to support a comprehensive employment equity legislation so as to create a level employment playing field for racialized workers.

It says racialized workers are not experiencing the glass ceiling. “We are faced with the concrete ceiling or steel door.”

The organization says there are no anti-racist planks in the individual electoral platform of Ontario’s three major political parties and it wants to communicate its strong objection to what it describes as “the race-baiting of Tim Hudak on the question of racist employment barriers” and initiatives to address this matter.

“Our organization has been following the responses to Progressive Conservative party leader Tim Hudak’s comment about “foreign workers” being given privileged access to job opportunities. Was he implicitly appealing to white voters who have Ontario or Canada as their place of birth? The various criticisms of Hudak’s statement have largely failed in addressing the real issue about race and access to jobs in the province.”

The organization says instead of calling for an apology or a retraction of the racially offensive statement from Hudak, critics ought to be calling for the inclusion of a comprehensive employment equity legislation plank in the respective platforms of the three major parties. “Racialized workers are confronted by discriminatory employment barriers in the workplaces across the province of Ontario and the rest of Canada. In the absence of employment equity legislation with targets and enforceable accountability measures, it will be decades before these workers are fairly represented across the job classifications system in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors in Ontario. “

The organization added that the federal government with an employment equity legislation covering the national civil service has failed in equitably hiring and promoting racialized workers.

“In 2010, racialized workers had a national workforce availability (WFA) figure of 12.4 per cent, but only 9.8 per cent of them were employees of the national government. It was very instructive that of the four employment equity designated groups (women, racialized workers, people with disabilities and Aboriginals),racialized workers were the only underrepresented group. The other groups were overrepresented as federal employees based on their respective WFA figures,” the Network of Pan Afrikan Solidarity said.

Race, Oppositional Politics, and the Challenges of Post-9/11 Mass Movement-Building Spaces

By admin, September 16, 2011 2:03 pm

Race, Oppositional Politics, and the Challenges of Post-9/11 Mass Movement-Building Spaces

Ajamu Nangwaya


In the absence of a critical race analysis that is aimed at informing and shaping political practice in the United States, the prospect for revolutionary renewal and movement building will not be able to reach its full potential in the post-9/11 period and beyond. This paper examines the race-informed developments of the 9/11 attacks, the racial politics of reparations, the spring 2006 immigrant rights protests, and the February/March 2011 protest action in Madison, Wisconsin, for illustration. In addition, it interrogates the issues of race and racism within the labour movement and the wider American society, and the manner in which they are deployed to prevent the emergence of an anti-oppression collective consciousness and a broad-based political movement.

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Migrant workers demand better conditions on community reality tour

By admin, September 8, 2011 7:02 pm

By KARENA WALTER Standard Staff

Posted 3 days ago

The dozens of migrant workers who rallied in Niagara this weekend took an enormous risk in doing so, organizers of a “solidarity caravan” said Sunday.

Many workers fear retribution or even deportation if their employers discover they have been rallying for better conditions, members of Justice for Migrant Workers said.

“It’s a tremendous risk they’re taking,” said organizer Chris Ramsaroop.

About 100 southwestern Ontario migrant workers from Guatemala, Jamaica, the Philippines and Thailand, among other countries, gathered at the British Methodist Episcopal Church on Geneva St. in St. Catharines on Sunday.

They are among thousands of workers who come to Canada to fill labour shortages through Seasonal Agricultural Worker and Temporary Foreign Worker Programs.

The church was the first stop on a tour for the group whose members came on buses from as far away as Leamington and Tillsonburg.

“You’re all here to demand justice and call for rights in Canada,” Ramsaroop said to applause outside the church. “Congratulations for the risk you’re taking to stand up for your rights.”

The “solidarity caravan” is making stops along the Underground Railroad to raise questions about whether those communities still represent freedom for all or oppression for migrant workers.

Ramsaroop said some workers are fearful of rallying in their workplace communities, but will take action elsewhere.

One of those workers who travelled from Tillsonburg said there’s no way to refuse unsafe work with chemicals for fear of being sent home.

“If you deny work, you can be penalized and lose your job,” he said.

And losing his job would mean being sent back to Trinidad, where the pay is less.

He has spent eight months every year for the last 13 years working in Canada without his family for that paycheque.

He said he doesn’t want the programs shut down, but added he shouldn’t have to live in a home with rats or have insufficient medical care.

Canadians, he said, have no idea what takes place behind the scenes.

“You get these nice fruits, farming helps develop the country, but we’d like to be treated like human beings,” he said.

Tzazna Miranda, an organizer from Justice for Migrant Workers, said health and safety is a big issue with workers using pesticides and machinery without proper training. Gender and racial discrimination, labour laws and the ease with which someone can be deported are also concerns.

“The problem is there is very little enforcement. It doesn’t matter what the law is if nothing’s enforcing it,” Miranda said.

“We don’t want to close the program, but we want it to properly work.”

Filipino Gina Bahiwal, an organizer and agricultural packer in Leamington, said she hoped the caravan would raise awareness and push the government to protect migrant workers from abuses.

She said she had to find a new employer or go home after she was accused of organizing a union.

“For three years I am here,” she said. “I see there is no protection for migrant workers and there is injustices.”

Later on Sunday, the caravan made stops in Virgil and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Migrant workers rallying for their rights

By admin, September 8, 2011 1:42 pm
Ajamu Nangway, a PhD student in adult education at the University of Toronto, handed out pamphlets along Queen Street to raise awareness about issues migrant workers face each summer when they come to work in Canada.
Click  here to find out more!

Migrant workers rallying for their rights

By Sarah Ferguson

Posted 19 hours ago

While many residents spent their Labour Day weekend enjoying the last bit of summer, migrant works marched down Queen Street on Sunday for better wages and rights.

About 100 farm workers and supporters took part in the caravan, says Chris Ramsaroop, organizer of Justicia for Migrant Workers.

It was one of three stops which included St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

The organization promotes the rights of farm workers in the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SWAP) and the Low Skilled Workers Program.

There are many migrant workers here in NOTL which are a part of SWAP, says Ramsaroop.

It is a program which responds to the labour shortage in the Canadian agricultural industry.

Migrant workers come from places such as Jamaica, Mexico or the Carribean and they can work from four to eight months in Canada, says Ramsaroop.

The organizer says the rallies are an attempt to education people about the lack of rights, the possibility of deportation if workers speak out and fees workers have to pay to recruiters just to work in Canada.

He says both the SWAP and the LSWP face the same issues.

Ramsaroop says people on the street became receptive to what the rally was about and were willing to listen when they gave away pears, peaches and vegetables which the migrant workers help to grow and harvest.

“It’s helping to break the invisibility of migrant workers.”

Back-to-School Beatitudes: 10 Academic Survival Tips

By admin, August 29, 2011 4:48 pm

25 Aug

Black Girl Reading

Graduate school was nothing short of an emotional and physical rollercoaster. I spent the first semester depressed and homesick, years 2-4 battling a stress-induced stomach condition that caused me to lose not only 75 pounds but also a whole semester of work. I healed just in time to begin my dissertation, wherein I gained back most of the weight I lost, and experienced a nasty case of stress-induced shingles just as I was rounding third. I love my work, and I’m glad I made it, but as we all head into a new academic year, here are a few things I wish I’d known…

  • Be confident in your abilities.
    • If you feel like a fraud, you very likely are suffering from impostor syndrome, a chronic feeling of intellectual or personal inadequacy born of grandiose expectations about what it means to be competent. Women in particular suffer with this issue, but I argue that it is worse for women-of-color (particularly Blacks and Latinas) who labor under stereotypes of both racial and gender incompetence. The academy itself also creates grandiose expectations, given the general perception of academicians as hypercompetent people. Secret: Everybody that’s actin like they know, doesn’t really know. So ask your question. It’s probably not as stupid as you think. Now say this with me: “I’m smart enough, my work is important, and damn it, I’m gonna make it.”
  • Be patient with yourself.
    • Be patient with your own process of intellectual growth. You will get there and it will all come together. You aren’t supposed to know everything at the beginning. And you still won’t know everything at the end (of coursework, exams, the dissertation, life…).
    • Getting the actual degree isn’t about intellect. It is about sheer strength of will and dogged determination. “Damn it, I’m gonna walk out of here with that piece of paper if it’s the last cottonpickin’ thing I do.” That kind of thinking helps you to keep going after you’ve just been asked to revise a chapter for the third time, your committee member has failed to submit a letter of rec on time, and you feel like blowing something or someone up.
  • Be your own best advocate. Prioritize your own professional needs/goals.
    • You have not because you ask not.  You have to be willing to ask for what you need. You deserve transparency about the rules and procedures of your program, cordial treatment from faculty, staff and students, and a program that prepares you not only for the rigors of grad school but also for the job market (should you desire a career in academia).  But folks won’t hand it to you on a silver platter. You have to build relationships, ask questions, and make demands.
    • Figure out your writing process (the place [home, coffee shop, library], time [morning, afternoon, night], and conditions [background noise, total silence, cooler or warmer] under which you work best and try to create those conditions as frequently as possible during finals, qualifying exams, and dissertation.
    • Your self-advocacy will often be misperceived as aggression and anger, entitlement or selfishness. Don’t apologize.
  • Be kind to yourself.
    • Reward yourself frequently.  Most of us need positive affirmation of a job well done, but for long stretches, especially during exams, dissertation, and the job market, the rewards elude us; and often given the time crunch, once we conquer the mountain, there is little time to enjoy the view before it’s time to trudge back down and start climbing the next one. All that hard work  in high stakes conditions for anti-climactic ends can take a toll on your psyche. So be kind to yourself. Figure out the things you really like and make sure to enjoy them as much as is possible and healthy.
  • Be proactive about self-care.
    • Figure out your non-negotiables. For me, sleep is non-negotiable. I must have it. I don’t do all nighters. I also generally don’t do weekends, so I adjust my schedule accordingly. What are your non-negotiables?
    • Take advantage of on-campus therapy services. My last two institutions have had women-of-color thesis and dissertation support groups. Consider joining.
    • Cultivate a spirit-affirming practice. Grad school/the academy is a mind-body-spirit endeavor. So meditate, pray, exercise, do yoga, go to church, cook a good healthy meal. Do whatever you need to do to keep your mind, body, and spirit in balance.
  • Be a friend/comrade to others and let them do the same for you.
    • Build community with colleagues inside or outside your department.
    • Build community with non-students/non-academics. You need folks who live life outside the dungeon. They will affirm you and help you keep things in perspective.
  • Be willing to get CRUNK!
    • If the environment is hostile, it is most probably characterized by microaggressions of various sorts.  Racial microaggressions –“brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color– are quite common for women of color, but microaggressions can be used in sexist, heterosexist, or ableist ways as well.  A microaggressive environment demands resistance of various sorts. So do you and be you. Unapologetically.  Keep a copy of Sister Audre near by so you can make sure you’re channeling your legitimate anger productively, and then, get crunk if necessary.
  • Be better not bitter.
    • Fail forward. Being the overachievers that we are, we tend not to deal with failure well. It tends to become an indicator to us of our intelligence, worth, and competence. (See #1). But failure is a part of the process. Unless you are incredibly, exceptionally lucky, you will hit a snag in a course, while writing the proposal, on the dissertation, submitting a journal article or submitting a book. Two tips: take the time to process, particularly for big issues like proposals, dissertation chapters or books. Cry, scream (not at your committee or editor), go to a kickboxing class. And then dust yourself off and try again. Look at the suggestions offered; determine their validity. Heed them or disregard them depending on your best judgment, and then proceed to the next step.  And one more thing…don’t let the resentment fester. It may be well-justified but it simply isn’t productive. Just think of it as hazing, and for your own sake, let it go.
    • A lot of anger comes from bitterness at mentors who have not met our expectations. But all mentors are not created equal. Some will build your confidence, some will give you hell,  some will go above and beyond, but a mentor is there to illumine the process and give you tools to be successful, not to be your friend. So have multiple mentors; know the difference in function; and adjust your expectations accordingly.
  • Be tight. Bring your A-game.
  • Be a light. As you make your way, show the sisters and brothers behind you how it’s done, so maybe they won’t have as many dark days as you’ve had.

A little musical inspiration for the journey…

Alright, fam. Please share your survival tips for grad school newbies and veterans and junior faculty as well.

Pilgrimage to Freedom Caravan 2011

By admin, August 29, 2011 12:57 pm

Pilgrimage to Freedom Caravan 2011

Last year, over 150 migrant workers and their allies made history by marching over fifty kilometres, an equivalent of 12 hours, from Leamington to Windsor, Ontario demanding justice, respect and dignity for the hundreds of thousands employed under the auspices of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Programs. After years of harassment, intimidation and exploitation, migrant workers organized and took to the streets to stand up to these abuses.

The march called the ‘Pilgrimage to Freedom: Breaking the Chains of Indentureship’ ended in Windsor at the Tower of Freedom that is dedicated to those who travelled the underground railroad. The monument was chosen as the ending point to reflect on the connections of past and the present to slavery, indentureship and statelessness that renders racialized peoples as non-citizens. Over the last year, thousands of people have heard the testimonies and the stories that led to organizing the march. Permanent residency and citizenship status, an end to repatriations and deportations, labour law reform, equal access to social entitlements and an end to the coercive role of recruiters and contractors has inspired many others about the realities faced by migrant workers in Canada.

Migrant workers and members of Justicia for Migrant Workers have continued to organize in rural Ontario and are once again demanding that the chains of indentureship in Canada must be broken. This year the pilgrimage continues as a form of a caravan across rural Ontario.

J4MW is requesting the support of community, religious, labour and allied organizations to join us for this year’s action. Migrant workers and their allies will be calling community meetings, and organizing meetings across south western Ontario. This year’s actions will take place across several communities.  If you are interested in further information feel free to contact Justicia for Migrant Workers. Tentative dates for stops on the caravan include

September 4, 2011
Niagara on the Lake, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls
For more details on the Niagara Action click here

September 25, 2011
Windsor, Leamington, Chatham and Dresden

October 2, 2011
Simcoe – Brantford – Hamilton – Toronto

Updates will be forthcoming in the upcoming weeks describing greater details the actions and what support we are asking for this event. We are seeking financial and in kind support but mostly your presence during these dates and communities.

Background Information

More than 20, 000 migrant farm workers from Thailand, Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, and the Caribbean arrive in Canada to work in our fields, orchards and greenhouses every year. Many workers pay thousands of dollars in fees to recruiters to be able to work in Canada, sometimes for jobs that do not even exist.   Once they arrive, many workers face dangerous working conditions, sub-standard housing and employment standards and human rights violations. As farm workers and migrants, they have little recourse to assert their human and labour rights and are constantly faced with the threat of deportation if they voice their concerns.

Justicia for Migrant Workers is an award winning volunteer-run collective that strives to promote the rights of migrant farm workers by creating spaces for workers to lead their own movement and articulate their own voices in a country that makes renders them invisible.

Justice for Migrant Workers!
Got food? Bought local? Thank a migrant farm worker!

Background on the Pilgrimage:
Call out for last year’s march
Message of solidarity from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers


Labour Start’s International Photo of the Year, Pilgrimage Photo Won!
Tumblr Multimedia snapshots

Toronto Star
Windsor Star

Rethinking the role of race in the modern Tea Party Movement

By admin, November 7, 2010 11:30 am

By Khalil Tian Shahyd

Tea Party’s Kool Aid drinkers at a rally

The rapid rise of the Tea Party Movement has fueled ongoing debate about the potential influence of the movement on American public policy and politics. The movement’s appeal and almost exclusive attraction to working class white voters has also caused many to question the role that race has played in its emergence and in sustaining it’s anger. However much of the discussion on the role of race in the TPM tends to get lost in two perspectives; 1.) to outright deny or downplay the influence of race in the movement’s political goals altogether; which is made possible by the charges of the second perspective that, 2.)  limits itself to a catalogue list of racist actions, political slogans and associations that can be charged against individuals, Tea Party leaders and organizations[i].

Missing from the discussion is a real analysis of the role that race has in framing our national political economic and historical narrative that can explain why public policies to limit the redistributive functions of government are the focus of conservative political groups in the form of “smaller government” advocacy. Indeed, the modern Tea Party can be said to have gotten its initial inspiration from CNBC’s Rick Santelli’s outburst on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange in which he blamed the federal government for giving subsidies to “subprime” mortgage holders who “were making bad economic decisions”[ii]. Santelli claimed that he would organize a Chicago Tea Party against President Obama’s plans to provide support to homeowners facing foreclosure. Of course, “subprime” became quickly coded by race and has been associated almost completely with homeowners of color whose experiences with foreclosure and mortgage debt had to be made somehow different and distinct from the experience of “mainstream” white American households who were morally superior and thus more deserving public sympathy.

The resulting global economic downturn has only prolonged the anxiety even as the crisis spread around the world. Yet, while the U.S. is generally recognized as the model for liberal capitalism, it is social democratic Europe; who have recently gone through their own political wave of right wing ascendency partly due to demographic shifts under increasing immigration from former colonies; where the most severe fiscal austerity packages are being proposed. Still, the U.S. pushes forward with stimulus packages to spur job growth and diplomatic attempts to convince European governments to increase their own consumptive spending. The responses of the working class majorities among the U.S. and Europe are equally divergent, as the European working classes have taken to mass action against austerity measures in countries such as Greece and now France.

In the U.S. the greatest momentum among the working class majority is toward the mid-term election of more conservative politicians, that include many who would not only raise the official retirement age of American workers [to levels three years higher than that being proposed in France and Greece for instance] and some who would actually privatize the social security system effectively eliminating the program completely. In this context it is quite easy to understand why progressives in the US might be envious as they look across the Atlantic for inspiration and a glimpse of what working class responses to the economic crisis could be[iii]. However, any notion that the mass movement of left and progressive forces against austerity in France can be replicated in the US fail to appreciate the glaring distinctions between the two countries, most importantly the impact of racial/ethnic division in fueling the hegemonic status of conservative/right ideological perspectives in US political discourse[iv].

Even as many Americans tend to underestimate the real level of inequality in the United States[v]; overall tolerance for inequality is much higher in the US than in Europe, and France in particular. In fact, although a recent study has shown that Americans might prefer to live in a more socially equal society[vi], deeper analysis has shown that when race/ethnicity is made an explicit factor, acceptance [particularly by white Americans] of inequality increases. Specifically as the image of poverty becomes framed as predominantly people of color, urban African-Americans and Latino’s in particular, support among whites for redistributive policies is reduced[vii]. In fact, as Alesina and Glaeser’s research has shown, approximately 50% of the difference in support for redistributive policies between the U.S. and social democratic European countries can be explained by racial/ethnic heterogeneity[viii].

Once that is accepted it becomes clear that the reason why the working class white majority in the US will not organize and demand progressive policies, [they are in fact demanding greater austerity upon themselves as manifested through the Tea Party platforms] is that their primary aim is not to secure social rights for the working class as a unified social class identity across racial/ethnic lines but to secure the privileged rights of white working class households apart and socially distinct from workers of color. This is the only way to truly explain why Congressional Democrats have fallen short in gaining the support of this group to Republicans by 10 points in both 2006 and 2008 and watched their deficit balloon to 29 points in the recent mid-terms[ix].

But to truly understand how this came about we must review the history, in particular the New Deal and the original Capital/Labor consensus that existed since WWII but began to collapse in the mid to late 1970’s. In the national trauma that followed the Great Depression and WWII, a new “Social Structure of Accumulation” was established that intended to stabilize the relationship and quell disputes between labor and capital through a capital-labor accord or consensus[x]. The consensus, which became embodied in the New Deal and the Wager Act of 1935 [that preceded the war] created a fragmented system of social protection that actually reinforced the racial/ethnic privileges demanded by the white working class to remain socially and spatially distinct from Blacks. It ensured, [for white workers] full employment in manufacturing industries, provided substantial benefits in terms of health and retirement and a middle class standard of living that didn’t require a great deal of formal education. By limiting labor/capital negotiations on social projection benefits and wages to the firm level rather than nationally or industry wide as in solidarity bargaining strategies institutionalized across Europe, white workers in the US were able to secure social rights within racially exclusive union brokered deals for themselves without having to share those gains with African-American [and Latino] workers excluded from union protection.

African-Americans under New Deal policies experienced new forms of social exclusion from New Deal social protections for the white working class. The racially fragmented social policies laid the structural foundations for the increase in racialized income and wealth disparities in two geographically based forms. In the north, the capital/labor consensus enabled unionized white workers to deny Black workers union membership, access to quality jobs that could support social mobility into the middle class and the many social protections won through disputes against capital[xi]. In the south the compromise over New Deal legislation enabled racist state governments to determine eligibility and levels of support through unemployment and social insurance programs that effectively eliminating Black workers from eligibility since they were largely confined to agricultural and domestic labor[xii]. While African-American workers were by default excluded from social protection programs that were tied to work, when they did receive benefits they typically got lower benefits due to their confinement to the lowest wage sectors of these industries. This left African-American workers disproportionately reliant on “means-tested” programs associated with poverty, which meant that conservatives could then racialize poverty and demonize these social welfare programs for political gain as resulting from deviance rather than the structural realities of race and the predominant political economy accumulation represented by the capital-labor consensus.

Again the primary compromise of the original capital-labor consensus which stabilized the relationship between the two was that white workers would be allowed to maintain their social distance [and superiority] over Black and other workers of color due to their exclusion from the better manufacturing jobs, under funded education and exclusion from protection and advocacy by mainstream labor unions.

The Civil Rights Movement would disrupt that arrangement. Despite the fact that the national Civil Rights leadership was literally forced to abandon economic justice frames in their advocacy, or risk being blacklisted as Communist, the movement’s success had far ranging redistributive political economic implications. For instance, the Civil Rights Act barring discrimination by race in areas of employment, education and housing brought Black workers into direct competition with white unionized workers in manufacturing sectors, forced white school districts to teach Black children along side white children and allowed the emerging Black middle class to abandon socially integrated Black communities for middle class suburban neighborhoods that elevated their asset values while giving them access to wider job possibilities and social networking opportunities.

The success of the Civil Rights Movement was made possible in no small part due to the rising national productivity and high economic growth rates enjoyed throughout the post-war period supported by an expansionary Keynesian macroeconomic policy. Liberal reformers believed that continued high growth rates in the national economy would allow them to extend employment opportunities to African-American workers without asking white workers in segregated labor markets to sacrifice their perceived entitlement to exclusive social rights[xiii]. During this period, the country’s macro-economic priority was to maintain full employment [as supported by the Full Employment Act of 1946] to ensure that aggregate demand continued to grow in order to support a growing economy. According to liberal economic theory of racial reform, “blacks, who suffer more in periods of high unemployment and recession, can be most effectively helped into the economic mainstream by increasing the aggregate labor demand through a policy that boost the overall demand for goods and services in the economy”[xiv]. An expansionary government that increases public spending on public works projects, and entices businesses and consumers to spend more by reducing the cost of credit [or buying out their troubled asset portfolios] can raise the level of aggregate demand in the economy which will lead to growth and increased employment. So long as the national economy continued to grow at good pace, workers of color could be integrated into the labor force without competing directly with white workers for scarce jobs. However, in order for these policies to work, the populace must be willing to cope with the potential outcome of rising inflation due to increased deficit spending[xv]. Further, if growth slows, resulting in an increase in long term unemployment amongst white workers, this would amount to the remaining employed white workers being asked to tax themselves in order to offer inclusion and opportunity for Black workers who then compete against them for jobs. As this scenario began to unfold, it would eventually destabilize the tense peace of the post-civil rights reform era.

Empowered by the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, African-American demands for social rights to accessing public services, education and in redress of past labor discrimination meant not only a direct loss of jobs for white workers but a reduction in their socially privileged status vis-à-vis Black workers. Coupled with the inflationary pressures that followed the OPEC oil shocks of the early 70’s, white workers began to entertain political ideas that questioned the relevance of the old capital-labor consensus.

Since white workers were no longer able to rely on the power of the state to enforce their segregated social privilege and spatial distance from Black workers they eventually bought into free market ideologies that promoted “merit based” allocation of economic opportunity through liberated free market preference. They could safely express their “racial preferences” for social and spatial separation from African-Americans by supporting the establishment and indeed the exalting of private markets in areas such as housing, public education and health care. In short, they would be assured through the expansion of free market ideology only limited competition for jobs since the neoliberalization of national and local governance would deny Blacks access to quality education, poor health care and few transportation options necessary for jobs that increasingly abandoned down town urban districts for majority white suburban labor markets. There would however, be one last vestige of the Civil Rights era that would remain as a persistent thorn. Affirmative Action was instituted as national policy in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement to redress years of employment and educational discrimination by qualified Black job applicants and workers who were passed over for admissions, jobs and promotions. However, during the white backlash that began in the mid-late 70’s and culminated in the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980, affirmative action began to reframed as a policy of reverse discrimination and the unfair awarding of positions to “un”qualified Black applicants.

A collective myth began to emerge among working class whites that “real Americans” and true citizens didn’t rely on public services or government interference in their favor in order to secure their livelihoods. The ability of an individual or household to achieve a good quality of life through private rather than public or collective means became a symbol of true citizenship and a moral litmus test on who deserved to be serviced by the institutions of the nation. Of course this myth neglects the long history of collective organizing by labor unions and economic justice organizations to secure the labor standards that made the original capital-labor consensus possible. As important, the collective myth of individualism was effective in abstracting from public knowledge the role that government played in supporting the social development of society and in the maintenance of vital public infrastructure and services. This is how we eventually get to Tea Party activist shouting slogans such as the now iconic; “keep the government out of my medicare”. The result of all this however was the hegemonic rise of neoliberal free market social theory which began to be grafted and adopted onto any and every social issue that confronted society. The dominance of neoliberal ideology laid the ground for a rolling back of the ability and will; [by electing right wing ideologues who had no intention of enforcing the Civil Rights Act and were hostile to redistributive economics and targeted labor policies] of government to intervene on the behalf of Black and other workers of color.

The roll back of the state through deregulation also removed any protection the white working class had from the disruptions and volatility of the “free” market by weakening their own bargaining power against capital. Further, the shift from full employment policies meant there was higher unemployment and a larger reserve army of labor which [along with the retreat of unions] further weakened the bargaining power of labor and enabled capital to completely abandon the capital-labor accord that sustained the New Deal state. The result has been a higher share of national income going to profit rather than to worker’s wages.

The before tax profit rate to capital on national income reached 11.6% by 2005 the highest level since 1966. On the labor side, the share of national income going to workers fell to 56.9% of national income, its lowest levels since 1966[xvi]. Intensified global competition justified a shift from national policies that sought to redistribute economic development socially between groups and spatially between regions, forcing both to take on more entrepreneurial positions in order to attain meaningful employment under conditions of “labor flexibility” and to attract the necessary investment to sustain growth in urban markets[xvii]. Stagnating and declining real wages allowed profits to reach record highs but also meant that capital had to look abroad to emerging markets for a consumer base that could absorb it’s productive output which began to bias toward high end services in the financial and knowledge sectors rather than production of real commodities.

The fragmenting of the national economy into low wage/low skilled service sectors and high wage/high skilled technology and knowledge sectors meant that the white working class has lost its primary means of social mobility into the middle class. The traditional path through stable, socially segregated manufacturing labor has been largely outsourced or automated. Meanwhile, as inequality rose to its highest levels since the Great Depression, households had to take on more debt in order to finance their middle class consumer based lifestyles. By 2007, household debt as a percentage of disposable income rose to 128.8% from 59% in 1982[xviii].  When this became unsustainable, the asset bubbles began to burst in 2001. It was only a matter of time before the white working class would erupt and demand action on its behalf.

The modern “Tea Party” is a direct result of this history as the white working class aims to reestablish some measure of segregated social privilege and protection in a volatile free market. Without those protections the white working class cannot sustain or reproduce a white social identity as the mainstream middle class that is privileged and distinct from workers of color. And let’s be clear whites cling to racial identity not out of reverence to heritage or culture but due to the social status and privilege it confers. The deification of the “founding fathers” and the religious zealotry surrounding their interpretation of the National Constitution has more to do with their ability to claim sole ownership over the national narrative and a sincere understanding or acceptance of the document’s intended logic. All this coalesces to make the movement quite schizophrenic as they claim to want and need government action yet they despise the fact that an institution which used to be their sole possession increasingly must consider the needs of a broader group, [i.e. “we want to take our country back!”].

However, as this article argues what the Tea Party is rallying against is not “big government” per se, but the type of “universalist” government that would be advocated by the left to address, through policy the social inclusion of marginalized groups into the mainstream. So a “public option” that would “reduce” the real concerns white working class Americans have with the current state of healthcare to the concerns shared by people of color is unacceptable as it denies their right to an exalted social status and potentially will force them to share waiting room space in hospitals and doctor’s clinics with those they deem socially undesirable.

For that reason, the white working class will likely never be emotionally able to make the obvious connection between their interest and the interest of progressive political activist and communities of color. At least for some generations yet, this will be the case. So in their self-induced paranoid delusion they must shift further and further to the right in hopes that they can somehow retool the state to act in their favor while excluding “the other” from access those same social rights and privileges.

The fundamental dispute between right leaning conservatives and left leaning progressives is over this issue of inclusion. For the right, the national narrative is a country founded and established by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants and that entitles them to higher social privileges but also it entitles them to inform or demand of the rest of us of the pace, place and space of our integration into the country’s mainstream if at all. The progressive coalition is an amalgamation of liberal whites and excluded or marginalized social groups who for better are worse are attempting to come together and discuss openly the nature of their inclusion, and to rethink the narrative of the country as a diverse nation and sometimes to demand it. The willingness of the left progressive coalition to have this discussion is its strength and a weakness as it provides little comfort for those who are more attracted to the dictated outcomes that an autocratic leadership can provide. It should be no surprise then that the Tea Party Movement attracts a fairly large share of fundamentalist Christians as well.

This should help us understand how structural racism influences public policy, and in the case of the Tea Party, lead to the rise of a reactionary social movement that on the face of it continues to befuddle liberal political pundits as it appears to consistently advocate for economic positions contrary to its own interest. It’s only when we understand the white working class majority and the Tea Party by extension, are voting not against their economic interest but against a universalization of social rights that would extend to all ethnic groups. Only then can we can gain real appreciation of the task that lay before progressive advocates. It also sheds some light on the consistent charges of the white working class to the elitism of liberal white America who assumes that these groups are somehow ignorant of their true interest or are being led astray. They are much clearer in their goals than we would like to give them credit for.

Yet we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of a “race vs class” discussion that is so familiar to progressives. For at the same time, the point isn’t to call out the movement or any individuals within it as racist or bigots even as they may be. The goal is to understand how structural and institutional racism operate in a liberal free market context and more broadly how race and the politics of white racial identity act to limit the ability of progressive forces to establish a more redistributive system of governance. In short, how race acts as justification for white working class support for neoliberal policies of governance. How the persistence of racial inequality can be made consistent with rising aggregate prosperity.

For the last three or four decades, white leftist in the U.S. have been frustrated at their inability to recruit support from among the white working and middle classes. Throughout this time they have refused time and again to confront the way race is utilized consistently as a wedge in American politics to blunt the potential of progressive coalitions. Refusal to acknowledge and understand the race wedge leaves the white left ineffective as organizers of the white working leaving this group open to right wing conservative ideologies that are more comfortable utilize race as a political weapon to consistently repopulate their base of support. More importantly, inability to confront race as a means of broadening its support has not only meant the left are ineffective, but has allowed conservative and liberal ideologues to altogether eliminate a critical left perspective from the public discourse in America. In the U.S. the “left” is occupied by liberals in what is actually the political center. A quick sweep of American political talk shows that typically feature someone from the right in public debate against a liberal centrist [who is labeled as representing the left] as if a true left opinion did not exist or had no thoughts that the country should feel need to consider or respect. The delegitimizing of the left discourse in American politics as “extreme” can be contrasted with the inclusion of right wing conservative discourse that allows extremist rhetoric like that espoused in Tea Party gatherings to be treated as legitimate discourse. A great example of this is in the national debate on reforming social security as an austerity measure to cut national deficits. The right and center debate the issue within their major frames; right wing focus on individual responsibility leading to calls for privatization and centrist commitments to managerial reforms that can make the program solvent for at least another century at best. Completely absent from the debate [the left or critical class analysis] is the role that rising inequality has in leaving the program short of funding. U.S Social Security is funded by a tax on all income below $90thousand. The greater proportion of American income are held by people who make more than $90thousand cap means that larger share of national income is not being taxed to contribute to the system. Learning to confront the race wedge is critical to any strategy to develop a broader progressive coalition that can open public discourse to a critical class perspective.



[iii] Why France Matters Here Too;

[iv] See: The Right Nation – Conservative Power in America by: John Micklethwait  and Adrian Wooldridge


[vi] Building a Better America – One Wealth Quintile at a Time by:  Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely

[vii] Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe: A World of Difference by: Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser

[viii] Ibid


[x] Social Structure of Accumulation Theory by: Victor Lippit,  in: Contemporary Capitalism and its Crises; edited by: Terrence McDonough, Michael Reich, and David Kotz

[xi] Race, Money and the American Welfare State; by: Michael K. Brown

[xii] Ibid

[xiii] The Political Economy of Hope and Fear: Capitalism and the Black Condition in America; by: Marcellus Andrews

[xiv] American Dilemma; by: Gunnar Myrdal

[xv] The Political Economy of Hope and Fear: Capitalism and the Black Condition in America; by: Marcellus Andrews

[xvi] Social Structure of Accumulation Theory by: Victor Lippit,  in: Contemporary Capitalism and its Crises; edited by: Terrence McDonough, Michael Reich, and David Kotz

[xvii] See: The Neoliberal City: Governance, Ideology and Development in American Urbanism by- Jason Hackworth

[xviii] Social Structure of Accumulation Theory by: Victor Lippit,  in: Contemporary Capitalism and its Crises; edited by: Terrence McDonough, Michael Reich, and David Kotz

No strides for racialized women

By admin, October 29, 2010 9:08 am

Re: Women storm city council, Oct. 27

I am very perplexed when commentators write about the underrepresentation of women at Toronto’s city hall, but leave the race of these councillors out of the political equation. Over the life of the last city council, the 10 women councillors were 100 per cent white. With the newly elected women councillors, white women are now just over 92 per cent of the total.

We are living in a city where racialized women are close to 25 per cent of the population. A lone racialized woman on city council is a shameful reality in this city that loves to lionize its multicultural and racially diverse character. Therefore, when we celebrate women storming the new city council, we should be clear that we are really talking about white women making political advance.

It seemed so easy to see situations where white men are the people who dominate a political space. But we need to be equally perspective in naming exclusion that is based on: race; race and gender; or race, gender and sexual orientation. I hope progressives will not see Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s election as the ultimate equal opportunity jackpot for equity.

If you believe that women are “calmer,” “collegial,” “look at things from different angles,” and are consensus builders, just ask racialized women or other non-dominant women who must deal with white women or other women who exercise power over them.

It is also about power and creating monolithic myths about gendered leadership styles does not serve the cause of justice.

Ajamu Nangwaya, Toronto

The Privileging of Whiteness in Today’s Union

By admin, October 26, 2010 11:08 am

Current Members of the National Executive Board

The National Executive Board makes decisions on behalf of CUPE members in between conventions. Its members are elected by CUPE members at CUPE’s biennial national conventions. This section contains summaries of the board’s meetings, and decisions taken.

Paul Moist, National President

Paul Moist, CUPE National President

Jun 22, 2009 03:32 PM Paul Moist was elected national president on October 29, 2003, at CUPE’s bi-annual national convention in Quebec City.

Claude Généreux, National Secretary-Treasurer

Claude Généreux, CUPE’s National Secretary-Treasurer

Oct 20, 2009 07:36 PM Claude Généreux first was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in the fall of 2001.

Daniel Légère

Daniel Légère, Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Jun 29, 2005 11:49 AM

General Vice-President
Daniel Légère has been a union activist ever since he was first hired as a correctional officer in St. Hilaire, N.B. in 1980. While still on probation, he became a shop steward and fought an unjustified reprimand. His involvement has taken many forms in CUPE and in the community ever since.

Lucie Levasseur

Lucie Levasseur, Regional Vice-President, Quebec

Nov 2, 2007 11:37 AM

General Vice-President
Lucie Levasseur comes to CUPE’s National Executive Board from Québec’s post-secondary education sector.

Fred Hahn


Dec 14, 2009 03:59 PM

General Vice-President, Ontario

Fred Hahn has been an active member of CUPE since 1991. A social worker raised in rural Ontario, Fred chose to use his degree from the University of Toronto advocating for children with intellectual disabilities with Community Living Toronto.

Tom Graham

Tom Graham, Regional Vice-President, Saskatchewan

Oct 1, 2008 12:54 PM

General Vice-President, Saskatchewan

Tom Graham first became involved in CUPE in 1979, when he was hired by the City of Saskatoon Sign and Paint shop. He was elected president of CUPE Saskatchewan in 1998.

Barry O’Neill

Barry O’Neill, General Vice-PresidentJan 16, 2004 10:46 AM

General Vice-President
Barry was elected to the national executive board in 1998, first as a regional vice president.

Wayne Lucas

Wayne Lucas, Regional Vice-President, Newfoundland and Labrador

Aug 24, 2009 03:24 PM

Regional Vice-President, Newfoundland and Labrador

Lucas has been a CUPE member for over 30 years, having started his career as a school board worker in 1978. He has served as the president of CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador for the past 19 years.

Danny Cavanagh

Danny Cavanagh, Regional Vice-President, Nova Scotia

Apr 29, 2005 03:22 PM

Regional Vice-President, Nova Scotia
Danny Cavanagh was first elected as president of CUPE Nova Scotia on April 27th, 2005 at the annual convention in Sydney. He is also president of his local, CUPE 734 the outside workers for the Town of Truro.

Sandy Harding

Sandy Harding, Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Jun 10, 2008 03:17 PM

Regional Vice-President, New Brunswick

Milo Murray

Milo Murray, Regional Vice-President, Prince Edward Island

Nov 2, 2007 11:30 AM

Regional Vice-President, Prince Edward Island

Charles Fleury

Charles Fleury, Regional Vice-President, Québec

Nov 3, 2003 11:36 AM

Regional Vice-President, Québec

Charles Fleury is the Secretary-General of CUPE Local 1500, Employees of Hydro-Quebec, and has been regional vice-president since 2005. A Hydro-Quebec employee since 1982, he worked at James Bay until 1991, and is now a transmission installer in the Laurentians.

Nathalie Stringer

Nathalie Stringer, Regional Vice-President for Quebec

May 15, 2008 10:58 AM

Regional Vice-President for Quebec
Nathalie Stringer is president of CUPE’s Air Transat component, with bases in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Michael Hurley

Michael Hurley, Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Dec 18, 2001 11:40 AM

Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Candace Rennick

Candace Rennick, Regional Vice-President, Ontario

Jan 16, 2004 02:19 PM

Regional Vice-President, Ontario
Candace Rennick, a health care worker, is in her third term on the National Executive Board. She was first elected as regional vice-president (RVP) at 23, filling a vacancy for Ontario on the NEB.

Henri Giroux

Nov 20, 2009 02:12 PM

Regional Vice-President, Northern Ontario
Henri Giroux has been president of his local, an Cassellholme Home in North Bay, for 26 years. He has been president of the North Bay CUPE council for the past 10 years, and president of the North Bay and District Labour Council for the past 3 years.

Mike Davidson

See full size image

Nov 20, 2009 02:14 PM

Regional Vice-President, Manitoba
Mike Davidson has been a CUPE member for 30 years, starting out as a park worker at the city of Winnipeg in 1979. He is vice-president for CUPE Manitoba, and president of CUPE Local 500, representing 5000 workers at the City of Winnipeg.

Judy Henley

See full size image

Nov 20, 2009 02:16 PM

Regional Vice-President, Saskatchewan
Sister Judy Henley has been a CUPE member since 1982. She is a Health Care worker; through the years working in health care she held different positions. She is the Secretary-Treasurer of Local 4980 and is currently in her eighth year as Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Saskatchewan.

Dennis Mol

Dennis Mol became Regional Vice-President for Alberta when he was elected president of CUPE Alberta in March 2009.

Jun 11, 2009 08:28 AM

Regional Vice-President, Alberta
Dennis Mol became Regional Vice-President for Alberta when he was elected president of CUPE Alberta in March 2009.

Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock, Regional Vice-President, British Columbia

Aug 11, 2005 12:31 PM

Regional Vice-President, British Columbia
Mark Hancock was appointed August 2, 2005 to replace Colleen Jordan as the Regional Vice President for BC after Colleen Jordan stepped down.

Ken Robinson

BC Regional Vice-President Ken Robinson

Dec 17, 2008 03:17 PM

Regional Vice-President, British Columbia
Ken Robinson is a diet technician at Kelowna General Hospital and has been an HEU member for 20 years. He has held a number of positions on the union’s provincial executive in the past decade, most recently as first vice-president, and is the chairperson of the Kelowna Amalgamated local.

Affirmative Action Seats on the NEB

Yolanda McClean

Yolanda McClean, Diversity Vice-President

Nov 2, 2007 11:46 AM

Diversity Vice-President (Racialized Members)

Brian Barron

Brian Barron, Diversity Vice-President

Nov 2, 2007 11:48 AM

Diversity Vice-President (Aboriginal Members)

Brian Barron is Status First Nations CUPE member. He has been a City of Winnipeg employee for 29 years, working in the Public Works Department in field operations and as a foreman.

CUPE’s National Committees and

Working Groups

National Advisory Committee on Pensions


National Health Care Issues Committee

Health Care 1843

National Global Justice Committee

Global Justice1858

Persons with Disabilities National Working Group


National Young Workers Committee

Young Workers1890

National Child Care Working Group


National Environment Committee


National Health and Safety Committee

Health and safety1951

National Literacy Working Group

Literacy 1956

National Pink Triangle Committee

Pink Triangle1913

National Contracting Out and Privatization Co-ordinating Committee


National Women’s Committee


National Rainbow Committee


National Rainbow Committee


National Aboriginal Council


National Trustees

CUPE national trustees at work on May 12, 2010 in Ottawa. Left to right: Mark Goodwin (ON), Ronald Dagenais (QC), Colin Pawson (BC).

2009 – 2011 Appointments


Total # of Applicants = 476

Total # of members Appointed = 186 Total # of Re-appointments = 108 Total # of new Appointments = 78















Aboriginal Worker





Worker of Colour





Worker with Disability





Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual Worker





Youth Worker





National Political Action Committee

Political Action1925

Farm workers, “dis is not slavery/ just poverty / speaking to democracy”

By admin, October 15, 2010 2:14 am

Participants in the Pilgrimage to Freedom march, organized by Justicia for Migrant Workers

Participants take part in the Pilgrimage to Freedom march, organized by Justicia for Migrant Workers

By Ajamu Nangwaya

i am a H2 worka
pickin apple inna florida
i am a H2 worka
hopin dat tings will be betta
suh don’t tek mi fi granted and pass mi
like is only cane and apple yu si
don’t tek it fi joke and run mi
den sen to mi govament fi more a wi
dis is not slavery
just poverty
talking to democracy

- Excerpt from the poem H2 Worka by Mutabaruka

Mutabaruka, the renowned Jamaican dub poet, accurately captures the lament and pain of migrant farm workers who labour in Ontario and the rest of Canada. These offshore workers come from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Mexico, Thailand, the Philippines and other Third World areas.

Over the Thanksgiving long weekend in Canada, we enjoyed the bountiful harvest from the farms in this country and the United States in the company of friends and relatives. We probably shared stories of success, challenges and plans for the future.

But did we reflect on the people who made that food possible? No, I am not referring to those mythic and stoic farmers of Canadian legends. I am hinting at the migrant farm workers whose sweat, tears, lives and broken and injured bodies went into producing the cheap food that we all enjoy in the great North that is supposedly fair, strong and free.

I am also referring to the over 25,000 migrant workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program (SAWP) from Mexico and the Caribbean who spend up to eight months per year on farms across Canada. Migrant workers from Thailand, Philippines, Guatemala and Honduras are also finding themselves on these same farms and fields through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program for Occupations Requiring Lower Levels of Formal Training (TFWP), which is even more exploitive. These off-shore workers contribute to the valuable, but exploited work that makes possible the $10 billion in annual income from the farm sector in Ontario.

When Mutabaruka rhymed: “don’t tek it fi joke and run mi / den sen to mi govament fi more a wi”, he is speaking about a sad and disgraceful reality in Canada. When migrant agricultural workers complain about their condition of work, they may be sent home at their own expense and without an appeal process to contest their expulsion.

Many Third World governments are in cahoots with this system of exploitation. They are dependent on the foreign exchange earned from these migrant workers and the SAWP and TFWP are sources of relief for the unemployment pressure at home. These governments have no interest in vigorously protecting their citizens because strong advocacy could force the Canadian state to go to other countries or regions with surplus labour.

The farmers in Canada know that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the Caribbean, Mexico and Asia who are willing to do farm labour in Canada. Under plantation slavery in the Americas, the enslavers treated their horses and other materials much better than the enslaved Africans.

The plantation masters did so, because they had a cheap and ready source of labour in Africa. It is not an accident that Mutabaruka protested against seeing migrant workers as mere cane and apple. They are not seen as people, but creatures that help the profit margins of the farm’s operation.

It is not a stretch to see similarities between the systems of slavery and indentureship that were used against enslaved African and indentured South Asian labour in the Caribbean, respectively. The fear of poverty as a constant companion has replaced the whip. It is not the workers who mostly benefit from their backbreaking labour. They are transported across borders to toil in unsafe working conditions, with the connivance of legal authorities or governmental systems.

No wonder Mutabaruka had to admonish the farmers and governments that “dis is not slavery” and the workers are really poor working-class people “hopin dat tings will be betta.”

On the score of “talking to democracy” by resisting migrant workers, I was truly inspired and encouraged by the Justicia for Migrant Workers organized Pilgrimage to Freedom march on October 10th from Leamington (Tomato Capital of Canada), Ontario to city of Windsor, across from Detroit. This march was a 50-kilometre trek.

About 100 migrant workers and their allies carried out this historic march so as to highlight issues such as workers paying in mandatory schemes such as Unemployment Insurance from which they do not get any benefits, exposure to pesticides and farm equipment without adequate training, migrant workers working many years in Canada without the possibility of achieving permanent residency rights, workers being sent home after experiencing serious long-term illness on the job, or not having the right to form or join a union.

We may recall that on September 10, 2010, two Jamaican migrant farm workers, Ralston White, 36, and Paul Roach, 44 died from exposure to gas from an apple cider vat that they were fixing. As Canadians, we need to stand in solidarity with migrant workers and not let governments and private interests exploit them in the name of a cheap food policy and the financial bottom-line.

On the question of marching in solidarity with the migrant workers, it was politically embarrassing to see so few trade union members and trade union organizations as well as members of the various Marxist and anarchist “sects” from Southern Ontario. In my judgment, organized labour and these erstwhile revolutionaries do not like labour initiatives that they cannot colonize and control. I really hope that wasn’t the case in the Pilgrimage to Freedom march.

It is not enough to sing Solidarity Forever or shove revolutionary newspapers or publications in the face of members of the racialized, working-class. The missing in action stunt of these class warriors was worthy of a “Class Solidarity Raspberry Award”. It’s a very deserving and well earned citation given that we’re dealing with issues pertaining to the most exploited section of the working-class in Canada.

Ajamu Nangwaya is a trade union and community activist, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, and a member of Common Cause – an anarchist organization with branches across Ontario. To get further information or provide support to Justicia (Justice) for Migrant Workers, please visit

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