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Fleet Strikers Sacked - Scab Busses Burned

On February 13, 2003, the 350 striking workers of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Lodge 171, who waged a heroic strike against aerospace giant Fleet Industries, found themselves out of a job as the company decided to shut down the plant rather than admit defeat. The plant closure will devastate the small community of Fort Erie where Fleet has been a major employer for close to 75 years.

A scant day after the announcement that plant would close, a bus used in the failed attempts to bring in scabs mysteriously burned to a crisp. I guess it had just accumulated too much bad karma from all the scabs that tried to hide inside of it.

Out on strike since October 1, 2002, IAMAW workers repelled repeated attempts by the company to bus in scabs, some who came as far away as Phoenix, and held the line in open defiance of a court-ordered injunction ordering the union to let scabs through. No busload of scabs ever made it through the unwavering line of striking workers.

On February 20, according to the IAMAW 171 website, "17 members were found guilty of knowingly violating the court order. The judge however, 'purged' the charges and did not impose any penalties on any of the defendants. [...] Police now have a court order to arrest anyone breaching the injunction. If any of the 17 defendants violate the order, they will go to jail. The company is also seeking all legal costs from the individual defendants."

The workers of IAMAW 171 not only held the line at great personal cost, they also took on the government. On February 1, 2003, workers held an anti-scab rally at Tim Hudak's (a local conservative Member of Provincial Parliament) constituency office. Hudak had bragged that the provincial government would never go back on allowing scab labour in Ontario. As the workers of IAMAW 171 have shown we can defeat the government when we stand together!

Even though Fleet decided to shut down the plant instead of bargain with the workers this should be seen as a major victory for the workers movement. Fleet was forced to concede that even with a court injunction and a rabidly anti-worker provincial government they were unable to break the determined workers of IAMAW Lodge 171. In this time of need the union movement should be allocating immediate and substantial defense and solidarity funds to the workers of 171. Any advances the labour movement makes after this historic struggle will be because of the sacrifices of the IAMAW workers who have set the standard of resistance to the bosses and the government.

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Striking workers at the anti-scab rally in front of Tory MPP Tim Hudak's office.

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Striking workers hold the line and stop a busload of scabs from entering the Fleet plant.

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The same bus after a spontaneous combustion of bad karma.

  • Click here for a bigger picture of the burned bus
  • (Sorry it's too big to upload on the page.)