Victoria: Jubilee Wildcat Action
Frontline Report From Jubilee Wildcat Action.
At around 2 pm on Monday February 23rd two or three dozen housekeeping and food service employees walked off the job at the Jubilee hospital in outrage with the decision of the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) to lay off "1,021" members of the Health Employees Union (HEU) from Nanaimo to Victoria.
Also at 2 o'clock, about a hundred people; renters, squatters, people on welfare/disability, union members and students, had assembled for a community feast outside the single parents office at Quadra and Mackenzie to draw attention to the welfare office closures all over the island, and to kick off the mobilization for mass direct action that will take place on April 1st to address the cuts to income health and housing and sow the seeds for a self-organized general strike.
HEU folks present informed us of what was taking place down at the Jubilee and the bulk of our crowd descended on the wildcat action to support the militant stand of our sisters and brothers and fan the flames of discontent.
The communities' solidarity coalition (CSC) mobilized a flying squad in solidarity with the 6:30am wildcat picket the following morning at Bay and Richmond. Despite attempts by a certain union rep to discourage the escalation of action, defiant rank and filers set up an illegal blockade (only allowing emergency vehicles through). We were quick to back up this inspiring act of rebellion.
When an arrogant woman tried to ram through several picketers in her BMW, people responded accordingly; a flurry of punches and kicks rained down on the fancy vehicle, resulting in a bunch of dents and a cracked windshield.
Following this flashpoint of class conflict, the police arrived in full force and immediately tried to control and undermine the spirit of the picket line (they were unsuccessful). We decided to warm our weary bones with an occupation of the main cafeteria in the hospital. After hearing the impassioned words of strength and determination coming from the strikers and other HEU fighters a couple of us from the CSC spoke of our solidarity and general struggle for the health and dignity of all poor, oppressed and working class people. The morale remained high and many came by to express their support, but the strike would not grow any larger than the original critical mass.
We witnessed a representative of VIHA threaten the rebel workers, that they would be punished and what they were doing was illegal. Now, who's the real criminal in this picture? ... If you said the money grubbing capitalists, we will not argue.
At the end of the day they decided that they would go back to work without discipline, and continue to mobilize their base for stronger actions on April 1st in solidarity with other social sectors in conflict with the corporate masters (the parasites who measure our destiny in dollars and cents). But the employer refused their offer so they planned another picket for 7am the following morning (Wednesday).
We had high expectations for Wednesday, but right from the onset there was a mood of disempowerment; still there were no more workers walking out, the support was smaller than the day before and the cold wind was cutting. Eventually, VIHA accepted them back with minor discipline.
Although that day did not breed any more life, the workers remain proud of themselves for taking a stand and they seem committed to continuing the self-organized movement of escalated resistance to the privatization of health care. Just before we dispersed, someone announced that hospital workers in Nanaimo had just walked out. This reminded us that there are many battles in a war.
In the Jubilee case, the company managed to use threat and intimidation to discourage most of the workers from taking a stand, but they were almost all supportive and the rebel core will be likely to continue building their base for further Jubilee action. If we continue to nurture these flash points we can infect organized labor with the spirit of revolt and undermine the interests of all those who benefit from the social order of exploitation. All Out For A1: The Possibilities Are Endless!