Hey Ho, Vale Inco Got To Go!

By Heather Braid

On March 22, 2010, there was huge rally in Sudbury as a show of solidarity with the striking Vale Inco nickel workers.  I had never been to a rally before, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I was one of four YCL’ers, along with eleven local CUPE members, traveling on a bus from Guelph to Sudbury.  We all went to show our support and solidarity for the over 3000 Vale Inco workers who have been on strike for nine months. The six hour bus ride began when we left the University of Guelph at 10:30am.  It was an exciting moment but I started to feel slightly apprehensive when Janice Folk-Dawson, president of CUPE Local 1334, got us all to write her cell phone number on our arms in marker…just in case we got arrested.

Once we arrived in Sudbury, we joined a convoy of buses from all over Ontario full of people out to support the Vale Inco workers.  Private unions, public unions, and students, all coming together to fight against injustice.

Vale Inco is the Brazilian-based multinational corporation who owns the nickel mine in Sudbury.  The price of raw materials – including nickel – has dropped recently and leaving the ore in the ground will cause it to appreciate in value. The multinational corporation doesn’t stand to lose much with the shutdown of one of their mining plants, in fact they stand to gain by only continuing extraction once the market has improved. The harm to the workers on strike, their families and the local community is incalculable.

"If that many people can come together to demand fair treatment for the Sudbury nickel workers, the potential for people to come together to fight for peace and solidarity everywhere is incredible."

Vale Inco is trying to break the steelworkers union by being unwilling to meet the demands of the workers. They are also bringing in scabs in an attempt to create violence on the picket lines. Meanwhile the government refuses to intervene and force the corporation to the table for negotiations.  While the impact of the strike are most severe in the local community, this is a global fight because Vale Inco owns mines in many countries, it is essential for the rights of workers all over the world, that the workers in Sudbury do not give into Vale’s ridiculous cut backs. A chief goal of the rally was to try to force Vale Inco back to the negotiating table.

When we arrived in Sudbury we got off the bus and joined a growing crowd of people. The scene was a sea of flags; CUPE, numerous Steel Workers Locals, the Communist Party of Canada, and many others.  A large grim reaper puppet made its way through the crowd as a representation of Vale Inco.  There were many people speaking, all giving words of encouragement to the workers on strike and expressing solidarity. Even workers from Vale Inco plants in Brazil were in Sudbury showing their support for the strike.

We marched from the Steel Workers Hall down the street to the arena, singing Solidarity Forever and chanting; “One day longer, one day stronger” was their motto.  I saw police officers, but they were there to blocking traffic to allowus to march peacefully down to the arena.  It was hard to tell how many people were out there during the march, but once we all crowded into the arena it was clear there were at least 5000 people.  One of the speakers poignantly reminded everyone that the workers are striking not only for their rights, but also for their children and grandchildren, who in time will no doubt follow them into the mine. Generations of mine workers to come could suffer if they agreed to inferior pensions and relinquishing their “nickel bonus”.

As we left I could feel the hope there.  On the long bus ride home, sometime after Police Academy IV ended, and once I finally got Solidarity Forever out of my head, I realized the potential for change.  If that many people can come together to demand fair treatment for the Sudbury nickel workers, the potential for people to come together to fight for peace and solidarity everywhere is incredible.

This article will be appearing in Issue #10 of Rebel Youth which will be out this summer. Rebel Youth offers pan-Canadian Socialist perspectives on the youth and student movement across Canada and internationally, with three issues a year. Contact gycl@uoguelph.ca if you are interested in a subscription or want to obtain copies.


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