The 1919 General Strike anniversary conference in Winnipeg kicked off on Wednesday, May 8, with labour activists and academics from across Canada congregating at the University of Winnipeg. The intention of the conference was to not only reflect on the lessons of the general strike, but understand where Canada’s labour movement is at today. Specifically – what is the state of the strike in Canada?
Keynote speaker, U.S. based organizer and author of No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, Jane McAlevey spoke at the Ukrainian Labour Temple on Thursday about what makes an effective strike.
I then sat down with Mike Palecek, President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to talk about the state of the strike in Canada, given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau legislated CUPW back to work last year, caving to corporate pressure concerned about losing profits during the holiday season.
On Saturday, May 11, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives hosted a talk by Boots Riley, rapper with the legendary hip hop ensemble the Coup, author, activist, and director of Sorry to Bother You – a mind bending dystopic film that centres heavily around labour organizing.
I sat down with Boots to talk about Sorry to Bother You, and why radical labour organizing is essential for fighting corporate power and giving teeth to social and economic justice.
It’s clear that the future of regaining the strike in Canada will require illegal action. It will also require activists within the labour movement willing to agitate and organize to build up workers willingness to take those actions.
But as Mike Palecek said, the best education is experience. And in the spirit of celebrating the 1919 General Strike, we hope Rank & File Radio Prairie Edition and RankandFile.ca can be resources to help encourage and facilitate that kind of organizing in Canada today.