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Mayworks: A special issue celebrating and debating labour

Volume 63, Issue 3: May/June 2009

Ninety years ago Winnipeg workers shut down the city in Canada’s largest and best-known strike. At stake were the rights of collective bargaining, higher wages, and improved working conditions. In the midst of the largest economic crisis in decades many of these same demands are on—and quickly falling off—the table.

In the May/June issue of Canadian Dimension we explore the perilous state of the Canadian labour movement and the possibilities for fight back in these difficult times. Read Tyler Shipley’s article about the longest strike at an English speaking university in Canada, or Fred Wilson’s warning to unions to stand strong in the devastation of an economic storm and the lessons and challenges of 1919 sound very familiar.

Greg Albo injects a sobering dose of economic reality in his article on the role of unions in this crisis, warning “the crisis has made employers even more militant in their demands for wage austerity and concessions.” Albo urges workers to be bold and creative in challenging the concessions demanded by employers and building solid alliances with left-progressive groups fighting related battles.

Organization and education are essential in building a better world. Socialist activist Ian Angus and distinguished Professor Richard Wolf give us both in their respective articles on the lessons of labour militancy and the source of economic crisis. While things seem quiet this side of the Atlantic, vibrant political opposition is brewing in France. Henry Heller tells us about France’s New Anti-Capitalist Party and one rather popular, political postal worker.

Despite concessions, wage cuts, and lay-offs, worker creativity flourishes. Festivals of “workers as artists” are happening across the country this May and we have the only national calendar of Mayworks events. From Vancouver Island to Ottawa, head out to a film screening, art-exhibit, May Day march, or workshop and help support worker creativity.

What force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one, you might ask? Stephanie Ross and Ron Drouillard tackle organizing the unorganized in their profile of Windsor’s new Worker’s Action Centre. “Like Windsor’s previous generations of workers, some are responding to today’s crisis in worker’s organizations with bold attempts to invent something new,” and put worker’s alternatives to capitalism back on the table. Inspiration in dark times also flows from Janet Conway’s article on the 2009 World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil.

This issue features some fantastic art by our very own designer Galen Johnson, Winnipeg artist Takashi Iwasaki, and celebrated Californian printmaker and digital artist Favianna Rodriguez.

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