Don't Let Them Deal You a Bad Hand!

Leaflet distributed by Klasbatalo during the croupiers' strike in Montreal.

The croupiers of the Casino de Montréal are facing a reduction in wages compared to the rising cost of living. The insult of a 2% raise in the midst of a 9%+ inflation rate is added onto Loto-Québec’s refusal to recognize the workers’ chronic health injuries (arthritis, tendonitis, shoulder and back injuries) as a result of decades of repetitive motion. Next to this, Loto-Québec has made it a priority over the decades to continuously reduce the starting wage of croupiers, from $18 twenty years ago to a proposed $14.50 today. Under such a massive assault by the bosses, it’s no surprise that the croupiers have taken strike action since the end of May.

But it is not just the croupiers who are responding to this attack by capital. Other workers have also taken to struggle. To name a few: throughout last fall, the CPE workers engaged in multiple strike actions in response to inflation. Last winter, bus drivers of the STL formed pickets against lowball wage offers from the company. The workers at the Molson plant in Hochelaga held out for a few months earlier this year, while SQDC workers still continue their struggle.

Across the board, the working class finds itself struggling with declining real wages as the prices of food, housing, and fuel skyrocket. The price of food in Quebec has increased by 10% in just one year, whereas the rents of traditionally working-class neighbourhoods such as Verdun have gone up by as much as 20%. Workers across Montreal and across the world are striking to defend their basic necessities. With such inflation, the point is bluntly clear: the losses faced during the pandemic and exacerbated by the war are being unloaded onto our class. We are being forced to pay for our bosses' crisis.

However, the uptick of strikes has remained on a sector-by-sector basis despite the general assault on our class. This is no accident: in fact, it is a central strategy of the bosses to ensure the division of the working class. Each sector and even each workplace conducts negotiations at different points of the year, allowing the bosses to divide and rule, picking off one group of workers at a time. Much of this is played out through the unions themselves, including when there are multiple unions in one workplace or sector. While the workers at the CCasino de Montréal are divided by three different unions, separating the croupiers from the security guards and from the rest of the staff, the CPE workers’ struggle was hindered by a similar set-up. The CPEs were organized between the CSN, CSQ and FTQ and though they were striking at the exact same time, they neither negotiated on a common basis nor did they coordinate their actions together. This resulted in the effective isolation of the CPE workers, even in a common struggle.

It was in this troubled context that the CPE workers in Little Burgundy took it upon themselves, outside of their union, to plan their own strike tactics. Creating a group email chain amongst themselves, they coordinated actions such as attending the CSN demonstration on a non-mandated strike day and on a separate occasion convincing the CSQ workers picketing in front of the Ministère de la Famille to block the street. Their example demonstrates the vitality and effectiveness created by workers’ self-organization. While the union keeps its workers in the dark with respect to negotiations, the Little Burgundy workers knew exactly their course and why they were doing it by taking the struggle into their own hands.

When workers organize between themselves, they are able to break out of their isolation and face the general crisis with a general struggle as a class. In May 1972, the workers of Quebec organized themselves into strike committees and mass assemblies, spreading across sectors amongst over 330,000 unionized and non-unionized workers. Such a unification of our class’s struggle is missing today.

The generalized attacks facing our class are not going to go away. Capitalism worldwide is in deep crisis and history tells us that when profits are at stake there are no limits to how much wage workers will be required to pay. It is vital that we face them on a class-wide front and not sector-by-sector. This means the active participation of everyone under attack, beyond union and job category boundaries and including neighbourhoods. Then we’ll be in a different ball game where the impetus of workers’ self-organization and self-initiative will create the organs of direct democracy necessary for a real fight that will put the bosses on the back foot.

Last, but not least, our class needs a clear political orientation, not just to defend our immediate needs, but to actually end this system of exploitation, misery, and war which is threatening life on earth. For this, the world working class needs its own political organization, with roots in workplaces and communities all over the world. A powerful weapon of political clarity, acting not as an “administration in waiting,” but as the clear reference point that can fight inside the wide struggle and point towards the need to abolish wage-labour itself. The game is rigged from the start for workers, and we need to flip the table over!

Klasbatalo - Internationalist Communist Tendency
Thursday, September 8, 2022