Should Workers Support the Ottawa Truckers?

Should workers support the Ottawa truckers? That’s a difficult question for which I don’t have an answer yet. As a union supporter, union member and socialist going back 50 years, the answer would normally be simple: Yes.

This time it’s not so simple.

On the good side, I think the truckers are showing the power the working class can bring to bear if it acts in unison. Production and distribution is carried out by working people, usually with inadequate pay, insufficient or nonexistent benefits, speedup, lack of safety protections or lack of enforcement of safety, and more. Working people can fight against this abuse, and the Ottawa truckers are demonstrating this dramatically.

The truckers are also exposing the weakness of the bosses and their system. It’s been a few weeks and both Canada and the U.S. are coming to a state of crisis. I had this thought this morning:

If the Ottawa “Freedom Convoy” was aimed at the wages and conditions under which truckers labor and demanded change, it would be clear this is a good fight and a substantially important one given its power and prominence.

But the demands are against masks and vaccines, plus protesters are brandishing signs proclaiming “Tyranny” and “Liberty” akin to the rightwing protests we see in the United Sates. There are also Trump flags and even Confederate flags. In the U.S., Tucker Carlson on Fox is cheering on the Ottawa protests. This alone should give pause.

Now I’ll cut the protesters some slack in their demand to end mandates, but frankly I’m not persuaded that mandates are inherently oppressive or anti-working class. Vaccine mandates during medical crises go back over a hundred years. Over 900,000 have died in the U.S. from COVID or complications, and over 35,000 have died in Canada. COVID is now officially the deadliest pandemic in U.S. history, surpassing the 675,000 killed by the 1918 influenza pandemic.

I think the measures taken in the Canada, U.S. and elsewhere have been largely appropriate and warranted — but as these were taken, not nearly enough was done to protect workers from the social and economic impacts. We’re coming up on two years now. The hardships workers have endured are immense. In my mind, this should steer us towards demands around wages, benefits, working conditions and safety for truckers and all working people — not against masks and vaccines. There are promising signs, but the pandemic isn’t over quite yet.

Anyway, that’s my 2¢ … as of today. I’m not firmly committed for or against. I’m keeping an open mind and an ear to the ground. Events are unfolding as I write this with authorities in Canada forcing truckers to disperse, new protests now starting in Paris and others possibly coming to the Super Bowl and Biden’s State of the Union Address.

What’s your opinion?

I’ll close by recommending this article published today in the Militant, “Truckers in Ontario show road to fight boss attacks.” It leaves many open questions, but acknowledges “There’s a lively discussion among truckers and other working people on whether the convoy advances their interests.” I encourage you to check it out.

Title image is by Véronic Gagnon, used under Creative Commons license. All comments are welcome. I only ask that we remain civil and respectful of one another. If you clicked over from Facebook, please comment here rather than back there.

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