Activists finger Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Electro-Motive Diesel Canada’s alleged “state-sponsored corporate greed” and labor malpractices.
Occupy Ottawa activists are expected to join thousands of Canadian Occupy and labour activists in London, Ont., on Saturday, January 21, for a massive rally against Electro-Motive Diesel Canada. The company, a subsidiary of U.S. industrial giant Caterpillar Inc., illegally locked out its workers at its London-based diesel train plant on New Year’s Day in an attempt to slash benefits and cut wages by 50 percent.
The rally is being organized by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), with the support of the London and District Labour Council, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). It’s scheduled to start at 11:00 am at Victoria Park a downtown London.
The park is a powerful symbol of the strengthening connection between the labour and Occupy movements in Canada. It was the site of last year’s Occupy London Ontario tent city, from where the movement defended the interests of the “99 percent.”
Canadian big hitters expected to speak at the rally include CAW President Ken Lewenza, OFL President, Sid Ryan, CLC President Ken Georgetti, and Nycole Turmel, the interim leader of Canada’s Official Opposition New Democratic Party.
“We expect thousands, if not tens of thousands of people to converge upon our city for this action, and we would like the Occupy movement to help these workers strike back against one of the worst corporate citizens of the past few decades,” said Occupy London Ontario’s Brent Cornwall in a statement released January 8th.
Caterpillar Inc. is notorious for union-busting and other labour malpractices in North American and overseas. Many have called for the company to be investigated under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. It has reportedly been found guilty and penalized over $120 million for environmental malpractices.
“The company has also been aggressive in working with China in the notorious Three Gorges Dam project, which has displaced 1.3 million citizens,” Cornwall said. “We, at Occupy London Ontario, believe that Caterpiller is the poster child of bad corporate citizenship.”
He added that the company’s practices were tantamount to “attacking the 99% to fuel the greed of the 1%.”
But for both Lewenza and Ryan the rally isn’t just about Electro-Motive Diesel Canada’s abhorant actions. In a statement released by the OFL Wednesday, both men accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of coddling the company, which reportedly received $5-million from a government tax incentive program a few years ago.
“It’s about taking a stand against the worst kind of state-sponsored corporate greed,” Lewenza said. “Prime Minister Harper is spending billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize tax cuts for corporations who are taking our cash … and our jobs. It is like having our own money used against us.”
Electro-Motive Diesel Canada’s actions come at a time its parent company enjoyed billion dollar profits and a 20 percent boost in productivity. In the third quarter of 2011, Caterpillar Inc. posted profits of close to $15,000,000 per day, a 44% increase over the previous year.
Caterpillar CEO, Douglas R. Oberhelman, reportedly makes over $5,000 an hour, before bonuses are even added to his salary.
“Prime Minister Harper has made it clear that he is on the side of corporations that are exploiting weak federal regulations and lax labour laws to rob Canadians of their jobs and their livelihoods,” OFL President Ryan said. “Our message to the Harper government, Caterpillar and every other company is simple: it won’t be business as usual until community needs come before corporate greed.”
The rally is expected to be the largest ever to take place in London. Nearly 70 buses are expected to bring activists from across Canada. Supporters are also reportedly driving in from the GE Plant in Erie, Pennsylvania and the Caterpillar plant in La Grange, Illinois.
The bus from Ottawa, provided by the Ottawa and District Labour Council (ODLC) leaves the capital in the early house of Saturday. It will pick up participants from St. Laurent Shopping Centre (near East Side Mario’s) at 2:45am and IKEA (Greenbank/Iris) at 3:00am.