Apr 142014

Solidarity Halifax member Jackie Barkley writes to The Chronicle Herald to voice a call to organize against Harper.

Stephen Harper has so far attacked our scientists, our public servants, our veterans, our census data, our voting rights, our church and non-profit community groups, our international aid programs, our trade unions and the CBC.

Harper has overlooked corruption in his ranks, shown contempt for national aboriginal housing needs, promoted secrecy and lack of accountability in the PMO and supported climate-change deniers. The list just gets longer.

We need him out. We need to step up organizing, all of us. Now.

Jackie Barkley, Halifax


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Apr 072014

ACORN members Jonethan Brigley and Scott Domenie write a response to Minister Glavine who made statements earlier this year that put the blame of an overburdened healthcare system on personal lifestyles. Scott Domenie is also a member of Solidarity Halifax.

Originally published at the Halifax Media Coop.

See also: STATEMENT: Glavine’s Statements on Welfare: Shameful, yes. Surprising, no and Social Darwinism with a Folksy Charm: Leo Glavine’s food politics


To the Honourable Mr. Glavine and members of the media,

After much thought, ACORN members have written a response to the February/2014 column in the King’s Register by Mr. Glavine that characterized people on welfare as lazy, irresponsible and draining the system.

ACORN members wish to issue Mr Glavine a challenge: before passing judgement on the people with the least in our province, put yourself in their shoes. Spend six months living on what people receiving welfare get and see if you still hold the same opinions.

The attached letter explains what life for people on assistance is like and makes the challenge to you to live on welfare rates before speaking publicly on the subject again.


To Minister Leo Glavine,

“Good health cannot be given to you. Individuals must take responsibility as well. At the end of the day, all Nova Scotians need to do the best they can with what they’ve got,including our support, to lead a healthy lifestyle.” – Health Minister Leo Glavine

Do you really support us, Mr. Glavine? It’s really not easy having a low income, or worse, no income at all. Having to choose discount white bread over more healthy multigrain because you can’t afford the extra $2.00 is a hard way to live. ACORN’s members on assistance, like others on welfare and disability, would love to go to a gym and eat healthier. The cost of living – rent, phone bills, bus passes/tickets, are always going up though and assistance rates and wages are just not keeping up.

Rather than face our reality, you chose to play politics with our lives. You decided that pandering to the people who say we’re lazy and living high off the system was more

important than our daily struggles to get by.

“Then there are people who are cognizant abusers of the system. They accept government assistance, yet still have money to travel. These people are abusing their neighbours’ hard-earned money.”

Income Assistance only gives you about $535 for rent $200 for food, power and all other expenses. Do you really think there’s a lot of money left over for extravagant vacations?

Rent is almost always more than what we’re given and the places we live in are usually run down with mold, pests and poor security. Our neighbourhoods are overrun with crime and usually far away from services. Grocery stores in our neighborhoods generally charge more for poor quality food because they know we don’t have anywhere else to go. How do you think we can improve our way of life for the better if we have all these obstacles in our way? It doesn’t help that the support systems we need to live on won’t increase what we are given to cover even the most basic necessities of life.

Since you had so much to say about us Mr. Glavine, we’d like to offer a suggestion. Why don’t you try to live on assistance for six months? See for yourself how hard it is to pay your regular bills and buy healthy food that will last month to month. This might shine some light on your harsh judgment for those who have no choice to live off these cheques each month.

Mr. Glavine, you have power to change life for the better for those of us who rely on income assistance to get by. You are a member of the Provincial Cabinet. You have Premier McNeil’s ear. If you truly want to help Nova Scotians live healthier, more fulfilling lives, then use the power you have to improve the support systems we rely on to live our lives.

We look forward to your response,
Jonethan Brigley and Scott Domenie
Leaders of Nova Scotia ACORN
Please contact Shay Enxuga in the ACORN Office:
(902) 266 2956


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Apr 052014

By Judy Haiven and Larry Haiven. Both teach in the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University, research labour relations and are members of Solidarity Halifax.

Originally published in The Chronicle Herald.

Photo: Trevor Beckerson

The current dispute over nurse-patient ratios between Capital Health and the NSGEU nurses is not new. The issue is not even isolated to nurses. Nor will it be resolved by whatever happens in the current round of collective bargaining.

The issue has been around at least 40 years as the growing ranks of professionalized workers, especially those in public service, resist government cuts in the programs they deliver and the threat to their professional autonomy and discretion.

This is no longer your father’s or mother’s union movement. The professionals are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it any more.

For many years, nurses, technologists, teachers, professors, scientists, social workers and even lawyers have been wrestling with politicians, employers and bureaucrats over the future of public programs. And many of them have been winning public support for their battles. As their slogan goes “Our working conditions are your (learning, health care, law enforcement, etc.) conditions.”

This is happening in an economy where the gap between the ultra-rich and the rest of us has increased steadily, and those with some bargaining power are desperately clinging to the rim to avoid being flushed down the drain.

More often than not, these battles are waged through collective bargaining, the only truly effective forum for bringing matters to the attention of governments and the public.

It took these workers a while to learn from their blue-collar brethren and sistren; it may not be pretty, but the threat of a strike is simple and direct … and a powerful wakeup call. Indeed, the control they seek on the picket line mirrors their loss of control at work.

And governments outlawing strikes or gerrymandering “essential services” so high as to achieve the same result will not solve the problem or even push it out of the way.

In fact, they make things worse, as law-abiding trade unionists defy the legislation and strike anyway.

Take education for example. In 2005, B.C. teachers went on strike (illegally, since the government declared it unlawful) over class sizes. And the public support the teachers won forced the government to back away.

And lawyers. Faced with legislation that forbade them to unionize or bargain collectively, Nova Scotia Crown attorneys took to the picket line illegally in 1998. Several days later, the government saw the error of its ways and these lawyers have been negotiating ever since.

Alberta social workers, buckling under unmanageable case loads, went on strike in the 1990s and more recently as well, despite Alberta’s ban on work stoppages in public services.

Saskatchewan medical technologists and therapists struck twice in the past decade, the first time illegally. Appropriately chastised, the provincial government did not repeat the error and reached the next agreement without a strike ban.

The unions representing scientists employed by Ottawa are swearing to use any means at their disposal to resist the reign of terror to silence their members and their work, even as the federal government tries to make strikes a thing of the past.

And, of course, there are the registered nurses. The first rash of nurses’ strikes in the early 1980s was not just about wages. A more important issue was the campaign for “professional responsibility” clauses in their collective agreements. Subjected for years to the dictum “see and be silent,” nurses came roaring out their long subordination to capture the reputation as the most militant of the new trade unionists. And the struggle to exercise their professional expertise and powers in a system trying to “run lean” continues to this day.

Nurses have gone on strike many times, in most Canadian provinces, including weeks-long stoppages in Manitoba and Quebec. Most of these actions were illegal as provinces attempt to criminalize their actions. Yet penalties galore (including fines, reduction of seniority, suspensions and even dismissals) do not seem to deter the strikers. In several provinces, like B.C. and Nova Scotia, nurses have threatened mass resignation. These disputes are not about an extra nickel or dime.

The “angels of mercy” who minister to our needs when we are ill are becoming class warriors. We should all take pause to consider for what, and whom, they are fighting.


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Apr 042014

Stephen McNeil has launched an underhanded attack on workers by introducing Bill 37. The bill is designed to destroy worker power in the public sector. Bill 37 is duplicitous. It goes beyond the scope of this particular labour dispute by reaching into future rounds of negotiations and declawing the union power of some 40,000 public sector workers.

Solidarity Halifax applauds the bold action taken by nurses and their allies, some of whom are their patients. Nurses who belong to NSGEU Local 97 have prioritized the needs of their patients over other legitimate demands like their wages and benefits by centering their fight on nurse-to-patient ratios.

This week, it has been the voices of nurses that have carried the strongest and the loudest – through megaphones outside the legislature and through microphones inside its four walls. Workers, mostly women, are telling their own stories, in their
own words.

Solidarity Halifax members in labour, community and student organizations have been on picket lines, speaking before the Law Amendments Committee and talking to their friends and neighbours about the MacNeil Liberals’ austerity agenda for our province.

The 1% is united. The Sobeys, the Irvings, the Braggs and the other millionaires and billionaires have their agenda served by the MacNeil Liberals. Withdrawing labour power is the major card workers can play when resisting their bosses and their government, and all over the world – in Spain, in Greece, in Bangladesh – that right is under attack. This struggle is about freezing the power of workers to negotiate. It is about making it impossible for workers to resist the dismantling of their political and economic gains.

With the passing of this legislation, we wish to renew our call for a united left that can oppose austerity and oppression. Working class people have everything we need to begin building a better world.

We want to work with nurses, organizations of low-income persons, racially oppressed groups, aboriginal people, women and trans people, students, the labour movement, the environmental movement, all those who stand to gain from building a world beyond capitalism.