Bigots in the House of Labour: Allegation of Racism in the Montreal Office of PSAC
Allegation of Racism in PSAC, Montreal Office
Bigots in the house of labour
By Ajamu Nangwaya; March 9, 2011 - Toronto Media Co-op
From: Ajamu Nangwaya
Date: Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 10:22 PM
Subject: Allegation of Racism in PSAC, Montreal Office
To: John Gordon
Cc: Patty Ducharme
Dear Brother John [Gordon, PSAC National President],
I am outraged at the allegation of racism experienced by two African-Canadian brothers in the Montreal office of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). This matter was made public in the Montreal Gazette and from the balance of evidence presented, the racist bigots and perpetrators behind the anonymous hate mails likely came from within PSAC's staff.
Anti-racism initiatives in PSAC and trade unions must go beyond anti-racism resolutions, policy statements, disempowered affirmative action seats and empty platitudes about solidarity forever.
The allegations in the story in the Montreal Gazette point to the possibility of systemic racism in PSAC's workplace. The following assertions as reported in the newspaper are indicative of systemic workplace racism [emphases in original - MW]:
Luc has worked in PSAC's Montreal office for four years. On Jan. 17, he returned to work after a six-month medical leave that he said was related to workplace harassment. He had been working three days a week and was about [to] start a four-day work week when the letter arrived.
Luc said that when an opportunity came up to volunteer for a certain assignment, other employees were given a chance to apply but he was kept out of the loop.
When the Quebec staff planned the Speak White presentation, they did not reveal the plans to him or to the only other black employee, who has since resigned.
Luc said no one in the office said anything when a union member who frequently visited the office remarked that he got his job because he is black.
When staff dine out together, black employees are often not included in the conversation, he said.
"You come to realize that you're not part of the gang and you never will be," Luc said.
Other employees frequently badmouth anglophones and other minorities at work, Luc said. They say: "Those têtes carrées. Why should we have to follow their directives?"
Luc said that colleagues often criticize employment equity programs for favouring minorities. "They say, 'Why give jobs to blacks?'"
Luc said one staff member called Arab union members "dogs" and said of the executive of a union: "I'm going to kick out those damn Arabs!" (Montreal Gazette, March 3, 2011).
I hope you will assert the necessary leadership and not sweep this matter under the proverbial carpet, because of concerns about the ever present issue of the National Question in Quebec. White supremacists should not be allowed to get away with racism by veiled threats about maintaining the integrity of regional autonomy. The comments made by two PSAC principals who are based in Quebec and the lack of solidarity and support for these racialized brothers from fellow staffers were quite instructive, as reported by the Montreal Gazette.
The pervasive nature of racism in Canadian unions will not contribute to the construction of class solidarity and the emergence of organized labour as a formidable fighting force for the social(ist) reconstruction of Canadian society.
Talk is cheap and we are looking for serious action from you and the rest of the national leadership. You ought to use this racist incident as an opportunity to examine your leadership structures, general workplace racism and interrogate the matter of the extent to which racialized people are shaping PSAC's day-to-day decisions (National Executive Alliance is an all-white affair: http://psac.com/about/elected/elected-e.shtml).
It is high time to institute a "National Committee of Racialized Workers" that will put in place a mechanism outside of the Unity Conference to advance racialized members' interests and needs. PSAC has put in place a regional women's committee; aren't your racialized members worthy of similar structures?
I hope trade union members and other people of good conscience will send messages to you and the national leadership expressing their thoughts about the racist allegations leveled against the Montreal office. We have done enough equity and anti-racism talking, now is the time for substantive and genuine racial justice action.
Brother Ajamu Nangwaya
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