Montréal Contre-information
Montréal Contre-information
Montréal Contre-information

Popular Self-Defense Camp in Rouyn-Noranda

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Jun 142023
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

The Rouyn-Noranda popular self-defense camp is a community initiative born out of refusal of the agreement between Glencore and the government (15 ng over 5 years). The solution of a buffer zone proposed by Glencore and different bodies will not prevent toxic gases from spreading across the entire territory.

We are making a call for solidarity and unity to all people and groups from all walks of life which struggle to protect the ecosystem from the capitalist machine. Let’s converge our struggles and our revolt! Join the front lines of the fight, at the foot of the smokestacks of the Glencore Horne foundry, of which five Quebec subsidiaries are among the 100 largest polluters in the province.

You can visit our site and sign up.

Call for Solidarity : Has the Ante been Upped in Montreal Tenant Union’s Struggle with the State and Major Local Landlord, the Cucurulls?

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Jun 142023
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

This is a call for solidarity and support for the Montreal Autonomous Tenants’ Union – known by most as their French acronym, SLAM. The tenants’ union has put together a picket line for this Friday, June 16, at 4:00pm in front of the landlord offices of 5301 Parc. This callout explains the ongoing situation of state and landlord repression, and why it is important that we, as a movement, help match these adversaries in their upping of the ante.

If this renewed mobilization is anything like the last SLAM picket, weekly picket lines will follow at the offices of the Cucurulls. It is probable that further actions will be organized to increase pressure.

We have copied an excerpt from the GoFundMe – donate if you can – written by SLAM, explaining their current situation in their mobilization against the Cucurull real estate family:

After beating a court injunction, our union is calling for renewed solidarity in organizing against the Cucurull family, a group of major local landlords. Our tenants’ union initially called for support after a delivery of a petition to the offices of the Cucurulls turned sour. The Cucurulls have spent tens of thousands of dollars to secure injunctions stopping our union from publically releasing information on their actions. All public information on the company was ordered to be taken down, picket lines could not move forward, and our legal fundraiser was taken off of public pages.

A recent victory over parts of the injunction allows union members to once again speak publicly about the company. Not only have the Cucurulls still not provided an action plan for tenants’ demands listed in their petition, but a $380,000 lawsuit targetting the union has been initiated by the real estate family. Tenants request compensation for the Cucurulls’ actions during the petition delivery at their office, and an action plan for repairs, respect, and smaller rent increases.

The Cucurulls run as many as 29 buildings and up to 446 units. The real estate family has been involved in hundreds of cases in the housing tribunal in the past two decades. In 2019, their offices were subject to an occupation by tenants condemning long-time residents being evicted so the companies could raise rents. The family attempted to use injunction proceedings to secure the de facto eviction of one tenant who participated in the recent petition delivery, but failed.

This legal and solidarity fund has been set up to assist tenants in the union facing court proceedings initiated by the Cucurulls.

Join our regular Friday picket lines outside of their offices at 5301 Parc, donate what you can, and organize tenants in your building to build tenant power on our streets and in our neighbourhoods! A better city will grow from solidarity and community! Solidarity in each and every struggle with landlords!

Donate! Share! Unionize your building!

An open letter was signed by about 20 local, national, and international organizations. It published by the collective Premiere Ligne, called “La justice fait taire les locataires! – Communiqué.” The letter explores the reprehensible actions of the landlords, Ian Cucurull & Martha Cucurull, against members of the SLAM delivering an innocent petition. Hair was pulled, a SLAM member was choked, a tenant of the landlord was trapped in the landlord’s office as the landlord, on video, smiled out their window, waving a knife.

The police, not charging the landlords, have chosen to target tenants involved in the petition delivery with such charges as extortion (for organizing for demands), harassment (for generating continued public pressure against the landlord) and breaking and entering (for visiting the landlord’s office collectively). Other details on the later court injunction, which included a failed attempt at a “de facto” eviction of a tenant, are explored above in the Gofundme text.

As for some reflections on the need for a movement response and continued solidarity with Montreal’s tenant union:

1) Tenant unions are new in Montreal. The state and landlord’s response today to tenants organizing on a basis of collective action will determine their future responses. If tenants organizing together and taking action together using pretty traditional tactics is criminal or worthy of court injunctions, and we allow that to go uncontested, we lose one of our most useful strategies to confront the housing crisis. Essentially, tenants’ right to organize publicly is being challenged here. Will that challenge succeed?

2) Relatedly, we can only assume that landlord organizations like CORPIQ and other landlords may be watching these situations and taking key lessons. Will this intensive repression – including a $380,000 lawsuit, court injunctions, thousands in legal fees, criminal charges and police investigation – lead to defeat or victory?

3) An opportunity has presented itself for organizing against a major local landlord. This is a public campaign at a moment of intensifying public concern with housing relations and the relationship of power between renters and landlords. As a popular movement, let’s organize where the class tensions and antagonisms, the failures of our courts and police, are clearest to people outside of our movement. Anyone knows when learning about this situation that a serious injustice is being committed.

4) Finally, these strategies of repression should never be tolerated by our movement, against any of our members. Solidarity, today, is a call to action against the Cucurulls and their companies: Immopolis and Topo Immobilier!

In case people want more information on keeping up with SLAM’s activities or find their events: https://linktr.ee/slam.matu

[Note: The above message is a sign of solidarity, that was not done with the permission or knowledge of SLAM]

Reclamation of Peasant Land in Colombia

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May 202023
 

From Projet accompagnement solidarité Colombie (PASC)

For the past two years, peasants living on the banks of the Zapatosa swamp in Colombia have been participating in the recovery of 8,000 hectares of land. Their goal is to protect the wetlands, improve their lives and build food sovereignty. In doing so, the peasants are opposing powerful interests that have seized the land for oil palm agribusiness and cattle and buffalo breeding…

What is the Safe Third Country Agreement?

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Mar 302023
 

From Solidarity Across Borders

A sudden extension: Without any warning, at 12:01am last Saturday, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) was extended to cover the entire 9,000 kilometer border between the US and Canada.

Deportation without any process: Under the STCA, any migrant caught crossing on foot or via waterway without a visa can be deported without any processing. Those who were coming via Roxham Road in Quebec are now being deported.

Refugee applicants caught within 14 days can be deported: Any refugee claimant in Canada who arrived from the US must now prove that they were in Canada for 14 consecutive days to be eligible to apply. If they can’t, they will be deported without processing. There are a few exceptions.

Migrants are in crisis now on the US side of the border: Migrants coming over to Canada on foot are now being arrested, and those that don’t meet the exceptions are being handed over to US border officials who either jail them or are dropping them off in Plattsburgh, New York. Most have nowhere to go to, having spent all their savings to come to the border. Despite sub-zero weather, many don’t even have winter clothes.

While the extension is new, the STCA is not: The STCA was created in December 2004. Until this weekend, it only applied to “official” crossings, which meant that refugees that walked across the border from any other area could still apply for refugee status. The most common route in recent years was Roxham Road in Quebec.

The US is not safe for refugees: The STCA was created under the premise that refugees arriving in Canada or the US should apply for refugee status in the first “safe country” they arrive in. The problem is that the US is also not safe for all refugees. In 2022, the acceptance rate for Haitian refugees in the US was 8%; for Mexican refugees it was 5%. Refugees are routinely criminalized, children are jailed, and it takes years to get a decision.

Migrants were already dying: Because of the STCA, many people were already taking dangerous journeys in both directions. In the last few months, two migrants, Fritznel Richard and Jose Leos Cervantes, died crossing into the US on foot from Canada.

This extension of STCA means more suffering: Now with the STCA extended to the entire border, migrants will choose even more remote and difficult terrain to cross to avoid detection. As a result, many more will die. The 14 day rule means that refugee claimants that do cross over will go into hiding for two weeks, during which time they will likely be exploited and abused.

Prime Minister Trudeau caved to racism: Even though it was announced on Friday, the STCA extension was negotiated in secret over a year ago. It came as a response to increased anti-refugee demands from racist politicians. Depending on which government source you believe, there were between 20,000 and 40,000 refugees, almost all of whom were racialized, who crossed on foot into Canada from the US in 2022. In that time period, over half a million Ukranians, almost all white, were issued permits to come to Canada without any of the backlash.

But it’s not over yet. The Supreme Court of Canada will soon issue its decision on whether the STCA is legal. Even if they do vote in favour of it, migrants and refugees will continue to take whatever steps they need to travel for safety and dignity. And as migrant movements, we will do everything in our power to support them. We must continue to oppose war, climate inaction, and economic oppression in the Global South that Canada profits from, and which forces people to migrate.

We will continue to fight for Status For All: We will continue to take action for rights and dignity for all migrants, and to demand permanent resident status for all because it is the only way to access rights and power. Right now, we are taking action for:

  • Undocumented migrants to be regularized without exception. We want an uncapped program that grants permanent resident status to all undocumented people without exception. We need to commit to doing whatever is necessary to make sure no one is left out.
  • Migrant workers, including care workers, seasonal workers, farmworkers, fishery workers, to be granted permanent resident status, and be united with their families without unfair education accreditation and language testing requirements. All migrant workers must have permanent resident status, rights at work and at housing, without exception.
  • Migrant student workers need to get fair treatment at school, at work, and need to be able to get permanent resident status without exclusions.

A sudden extension: Without any warning, at 12:01am last Saturday, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) was extended to cover the entire 9,000 kilometer border between the US and Canada.

Deportation without any process: Under the STCA, any migrant caught crossing on foot or via waterway without a visa can be deported without any processing. Those who were coming via Roxham Road in Quebec are now being deported.

Refugee applicants caught within 14 days can be deported: Any refugee claimant in Canada who arrived from the US must now prove that they were in Canada for 14 consecutive days to be eligible to apply. If they can’t, they will be deported without processing. There are a few exceptions.

Migrants are in crisis now on the US side of the border: Migrants coming over to Canada on foot are now being arrested, and those that don’t meet the exceptions are being handed over to US border officials who either jail them or are dropping them off in Plattsburgh, New York. Most have nowhere to go to, having spent all their savings to come to the border. Despite sub-zero weather, many don’t even have winter clothes.

While the extension is new, the STCA is not: The STCA was created in December 2004. Until this weekend, it only applied to “official” crossings, which meant that refugees that walked across the border from any other area could still apply for refugee status. The most common route in recent years was Roxham Road in Quebec.

The US is not safe for refugees: The STCA was created under the premise that refugees arriving in Canada or the US should apply for refugee status in the first “safe country” they arrive in. The problem is that the US is also not safe for all refugees. In 2022, the acceptance rate for Haitian refugees in the US was 8%; for Mexican refugees it was 5%. Refugees are routinely criminalized, children are jailed, and it takes years to get a decision.

Migrants were already dying: Because of the STCA, many people were already taking dangerous journeys in both directions. In the last few months, two migrants, Fritznel Richard and Jose Leos Cervantes, died crossing into the US on foot from Canada.

This extension of STCA means more suffering: Now with the STCA extended to the entire border, migrants will choose even more remote and difficult terrain to cross to avoid detection. As a result, many more will die. The 14 day rule means that refugee claimants that do cross over will go into hiding for two weeks, during which time they will likely be exploited and abused.

Prime Minister Trudeau caved to racism: Even though it was announced on Friday, the STCA extension was negotiated in secret over a year ago. It came as a response to increased anti-refugee demands from racist politicians. Depending on which government source you believe, there were between 20,000 and 40,000 refugees, almost all of whom were racialized, who crossed on foot into Canada from the US in 2022. In that time period, over half a million Ukranians, almost all white, were issued permits to come to Canada without any of the backlash.

But it’s not over yet. The Supreme Court of Canada will soon issue its decision on whether the STCA is legal. Even if they do vote in favour of it, migrants and refugees will continue to take whatever steps they need to travel for safety and dignity. And as migrant movements, we will do everything in our power to support them. We must continue to oppose war, climate inaction, and economic oppression in the Global South that Canada profits from, and which forces people to migrate.

We will continue to fight for Status For All: We will continue to take action for rights and dignity for all migrants, and to demand permanent resident status for all because it is the only way to access rights and power. Right now, we are taking action for:

  • Undocumented migrants to be regularized without exception. We want an uncapped program that grants permanent resident status to all undocumented people without exception. We need to commit to doing whatever is necessary to make sure no one is left out.
  • Migrant workers, including care workers, seasonal workers, farmworkers, fishery workers, to be granted permanent resident status, and be united with their families without unfair education accreditation and language testing requirements. All migrant workers must have permanent resident status, rights at work and at housing, without exception.
  • Migrant student workers need to get fair treatment at school, at work, and need to be able to get permanent resident status without exclusions.

The CLAC Legal Self-Defense Fund is Back!

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Mar 152023
 

From the Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes

The Legal Self-Defense Committee of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC) is getting its Legal Self-Defense Fund back together. The fund aims to support people who are victims of police or legal repression for alleged acts committed in the context of individual or collective actions with an anti-capitalist, feminist, anti-colonial or anti-racist scope.

We need your contributions to help the Fund! Following the large mobilizations of 2012, several legal funds were created to support those arrested, but for the past few years, these have not been available, including the one at CLAC until now. We are starting a new legal fund to support people arrested for political activities, because it is important to support arrested people financially so that they can face the government’s biased and unjust police and judicial systems.

To make a donation to the Legal Defense Fund

  • By cheque
    Write the cheque to “Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes” and send it at the following adress:
                CLAC-Montréal / QPIRG-Concordia
c/o Université Concordia
1455 de Maisonneuve O
Montréal, Quebec
H3G 1M8

Write “Legal Defense Fund” on the cheque, so that we know it’s for the Fund

  • By interac e-transfer
    Send it to: finance @ clac-montreal.net
    With the security question: “Legal defense”,
    And the answer: “fund”.
    If you are doing a donation specifically to the Atlanta solidarity campaign:
    Write the question: “Atlanta solidarity”
    And the answer: “stopcopcity”.

If you have been arrested and need financial support from the Fund, visit the page:
https://www.clac-montreal.net/en/fund

If you need legal support following an arrest, contact CLAC’s Legal Defence Committee at
info @ clac-montreal.net

Tenants’ Union March into the Offices of Transport Québec

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Feb 242023
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Monday, February 20th, members of the Montreal Autonomous Tenants’ Union (SLAM-MATU) stormed into the offices of Transport Quebec. Any plans for a future eviction of the Ville-marie encampment must be cancelled, and encampment members need to be given housing that fits their needs. We marched on TQ’s offices, just as we march on the offices of landlords, because direct action gets the goods.

We’re calling on members of the public, supporters, and unhoused comrades, to take to the streets this coming Monday, February 27th, 5:30pm, Atwater Metro (Cabot Square) to help put an end to these evictions.

These evictions are not solutions to homelessness and do not improve the lives of people who are homeless. Homelessness is caused by our broken shelter system, the predatory rents and evictions of landlords, and the modern austerity politics of capitalist governments who underfund and mismanage mental health, social, and housing services. The housing crisis affects us all! Defend your neighbours!

Music is once again from Action Sédition. Go check them out.

The Industrial Workers of the World in Quebec: a 10th Anniversary Postmortem

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Feb 052023
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

February marks the 10-year anniversary of the presence of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Quebec. Once a sparkle in the eyes of a tenacious group of student strike veterans looking to broaden their fight, the union now marks its decennial without a single workplace in the province organized under its banner.

What was this initiative and why did it run into trouble?

The United States Idea: Solidarity Unionism

As US union membership continued to decline in the 90’s, one group of thinkers championed a strategy, known as Solidarity Unionism, which diagnosed the harm and the remedy for labour’s problems as stemming from the same source: labour law.[1]

Labour law — specifically, the US National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) — was said to weaken unions by forcing them to follow a formal certification process to represent workers at a particular company.[2] The certification delivered membership growth with legal leverage at the expense of actions a union was to forgo, such as sympathy striking, as a condition of maintaining their certification.

Section 7 of the NLRA provided an alternative course of action, allowing workers to circumvent the long, drawn out process of certifying the union through an election and negotiating a collective bargaining agreement, which can take years to materialize. Section 7 entitles two or more workers to take action together to improve their working conditions— without union certification and without a collective bargaining agreement.

If jumping through the hoops to get “permission to bargain” produced impotent unions, then bypassing this waypoint by directly engaging in the concerted activity protected by Section 7 would be the answer. As an example, workers at Starbucks recently engaged in a strike that would merit no legal protections in Canada.

IWW Arrives in Quebec

In 2013, the IWW chartered its first local in Quebec.

Despite the province’s contemporary status as the most radical and labour-friendly jurisdiction in Canada, Quebec’s Labour code immediately presented a problem for the Solidarity Unionism experiment. Quebec’s labour relations regime has no equivalent to the NLRA’s Section 7. There is no legal protection for workers engaging in concerted activity. If they struck — defined in the labour code as virtually any type of concerted activity that impacts production — the employer was legally entitled to fire them.

However, in Sections 12 – 15, the provincial labour code does contain language designed to protect workers throughout the process of forming a union and during participation in union activities. Invoking the broad language of Sections 12 – 15 in complaints to the Labour Board, the IWW attempted to force these sections to be interpreted as a sort of deformed clone of the NLRA’s Section 7.

This is how the sequence of events would run:

(1) Workers participate in some concerted activity → (2) Employer takes an anti-worker action → (3) File complaint about contravention of articles 12-15 → (4) Utilize aid of Board Agent to negotiate significant financial settlements causing → (5) A discouraging effect on target employer, and signalling effect on other employers.

Would the union’s strategy be eligible for protections offered by Quebec’s Labour Board? More practically, would employers be prepared to enter into the courtroom to find out? While some employers declined to provoke the Labour Board’s attention over union actions that could be re-interpreted as legally protected, others discovered that the Board would crank out hefty out-of-court financial settlements for workers engaged in concerted activity.

While the Labour Board complaints provided the IWW with a defensible legal basis for engaging in concerted activity, the union was able to effectively reap the rewards of its organizing style in the form of broader support from members at target companies, as well as higher intensity workplace activism. Concerted activity in the union formation phase led to these benefits by creating more frequent and emotionally intense occasions for members to increase their sense of identification with the organization.

No Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy

While Solidarity Unionism saw its share of success on both sides of the 49th parallel, the strategy ultimately failed in similar ways in both the US and Quebec.

In the US, though Section 7 provided cover for unions to build strength and support during the initial phase of forming on the shop floor, it did not go far enough to create the necessary conditions to allow the union to actually take root in the workplace. Nor did Section 7 create the conditions necessary for the IWW to achieve concessions on the scale of other unions in terms of wages, scheduling, job protection, and influence over management of the company.

On both sides of the border, labour board interventions in defence of concerted activity were too ineffective. Workers were unable to progress from intense fights with employers over initial, limited problems into establishing a sustainable union capable of shaping company policy. Unfortunately, the speed with which employers can run a campaign of terror — snuffing out initiatives through firings and facility closures, such as at Zeppelin bar and grill, and Red Bee Media — consistently outpaced labour board interventions. In practice, employers also demonstrated their capability to endure the IWW’s tactics of petty economic warfare, as well as the financial penalties which were achievable from concerted activity protection norms. More critically, employers were effective at outlasting their employees’ resolve to work in a perpetual war zone.

In Quebec, workers were also ineligible to make the legal shift arising from formal certification that marks an important switchover from a less advantageous set of laws governing individual employment contracts, to the more advantageous set of laws governing collective bargaining and collective agreements. The Solidarity Unionism model in Quebec necessitated a significant abdication and abandonment of legal entitlements and protections.

As a consequence, the IWW’s organizing in Quebec has hit a wall. Many workers who were able and willing to make a lateral move to the CSN, the second largest trade union federation in Quebec, did so. Others left without union representation in their workplaces.

A sample of organizing efforts and their results:

CompanyInitial OutcomeLong-term outcome
Frites Alors! on Rue RachelVoluntary agreement (no status under Quebec labour law)Union killed through turnover; unclear whether workers at this location still benefit from this agreement.
Aux Vivres on Boul. Saint LaurentAbsorbed by CSNUnion legally exists, but killed through lack of support by central
Union for employees of student unions and student union owned enterprises (STTMAE)Voluntary Agreements with Cegep student unions (no status under Quebec labour law)Unions represented members moved to CSN
Community Sector Organizing (STTIC)Absorbed by CSN Dual IWW-CSN campaign that led to significant improvements in Collective Agreement for some members.Union continued but is now exclusively represented by CSN; IWW ousted or left from Executive
Humble Lion CafeVoluntary agreement (no status under Quebec labour law)Union killed through turnover; unclear if workers at the company still benefit from the agreement.
Red Bee MediaCompany closure, mass firing, Labour Board mediated financial settlementsWorkers lost their jobs; company closed
QA CourierMass firingBike couriers followed initial effort by turning to Canadian Postal Workers Union which progressed in Ontario (see Gig Workers United) but did not progress in Quebec
KeywordsMultiple firings, Labour Board mediated financial settlementsEffort to organize video games continues under auspices of Game Workers United & Communications Workers of America

Proof of Concept

The IWW’s Solidarity Union experiment has provided the labour movement with some important lessons. The deliberate, planned, and persistent application of concerted activity in establishing a union translates to higher and more durable degrees of participation and support among members. More importantly, it delivers higher caliber union actions that are effective in throwing employers and labour boards off-guard.

Painfully, these are typically short-term gains measured in months and not years, which more often than not eventually lead to workers seeking collective bargaining agreements in most successful campaigns due to the added legal tools they make available and worker-organizer burnout.

Today, in light of the obstacles described above, workplaces publicly organized by the IWW in the United States combine Solidarity Unionism tactics with Collective Agreements and bargaining, narrowing the gap in their earlier approach. Meanwhile, other underground workplace organizing campaigns continue in what may be defensibly termed small batch, artisanal unionism — unscalable outside of one or two workplaces, and transient.

The IWW’s organizing in Quebec followed a similar trajectory. It set important practical precedents in trade union activity by demonstrating the willingness of the provincial labour board to act in defence of concerted activity. However, it failed to accomplish its goal of establishing durable unions capable of achieving deep concessions without regard for bargaining units and the kind of time-bound peace treaties with employers that have characterized the US-Canadian labour movements since the early 20th century.

Unlike some of their American counterparts, leaders of IWW’s quickly shrinking footprint in Quebec have not demonstrated an interest in shifting to a hybrid approach to organizing that would include tactics beyond the Labour Board’s menu of protected concerted activities, making the organization’s future uncertain. The union’s presence in Quebec, which once included enclaves in Drummondville, Sherbrooke, Quebec City, and Montreal, is now down to just a few dozen active members in Montreal.


[1] The term Solidarity Unionism has undergone several changes in meaning. In the broadest terms it refers to a set of tactics that can be used by any union, while in others it refers to minority unionism. In this context, it strictly refers to a dominant tendency in union thinking that defines it as a strategy based on the NRLA’s Section 7 as described above.

[2] This holds true even in circumstances where workers at a particular company form a union to pursue a certificate to represent themselves.

Tenants Escalate Against Cromwell Renoviction

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Dec 062022
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

The views expressed within this text are not those of the Montreal Autonomous Tenants’ Union (SLAM). The following is an account and analysis by one union member. SLAM is built on anarcho-syndicalist principles but is not an explicitly anarchist organization and contains many (if not mostly) non-anarchist militants. Working together has not been a question of compromising our principles, but of growing our strength based on tactical agreement.

This article provides an update to a previous article published by another member of SLAM. Read for more context here

On Saturday, November 26, dozens of banners were dropped from the balconies of 3605 St-Urbain, painted with slogans such as “SOLIDARITÉ ENTRE LOCATAIRES” and “WE NEED HEAT!”. SLAM members danced to union tunes and handed out flyers at the street corner. 

Fourteen tenants remain in the 130-unit building, holding out against a large-scale renoviction by notorious landlord George Gantcheff, owner of Cromwell Management Inc. Quebec. These last few tenants live scattered throughout a dangerous and distressing construction site. Recently they have joined forces with the Montreal Autonomous Tenants Union (SLAM), fighting for compensation, rent reductions, heating, transparent and consensual construction work, and that the renovated units remain affordable. The banner drop is the most recent escalation in their campaign, following several ignored attempts at “playing nice.” When tenants sat down for a good faith negotiation with the management company a few days before the banner drop, Cromwell’s representatives walked out after less than ten minutes of discussion.

On Saturday, union members joined tenants across the street from the newly decorated building. They played music, talked, and handed out over 200 flyers to curious passersby. Neighbours and community members expressed outrage, distress, sympathy and solidarity.

Cromwell aims to profit as much of they can off their property, regardless of the human consequences. So long as housing is bought, sold, and rented on the basis of profit and not need, Cromwell is a prime study of companies acting intelligently in a competitive market. As profit-oriented corporations seize larger portions of the market, Cromwell is an example – not an outlier. With a tenant class increasingly unable to afford housing, more and more people are organizing with their neighbours to take matters into their own hands. Oft-used pressure tactics serve short term goals, demonstrate power, and win concessions. 

These actions lay the basis for a tenant movement capable of revolutionary change. Through the practice of pushing systemic boundaries and wielding our collective power, we make immediate improvements to our lives while preparing for a larger fight. 

To support the tenants of 3605 St-Urbain or join in on our other projects, email us at slam.matu@protonmail.com or stay up to date on our instagram @slam.matu

​​​​​​​Check out the union’s Kolektiva account for an upcoming mini-doc on the banner drop.

More information is coming out soon on other anti-eviction actions from the month of November, including a tenant union demo against the eviction of the Ville Marie expressway encampment and rallied in and outside the Quebec Housing Tribunal to stop an eviction by landlord Satish mantha. Stay tuned to learn more!

Tenants Resist Renoviction by Cromwell, Anarchist Solidarity is Key

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Oct 232022
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

The views expressed within this text are not those of the Montreal Autonomous Tenants’ Union (SLAM). The following is an account and analysis by one union member. SLAM is built on anarcho-syndicalist principles but is not an explicitly anarchist organization and contains many (if not mostly) non-anarchist militants. Working together has not been a question of compromising our principles, but of growing our strength based on tactical agreement.

A short documentary, based on a community tour of 3605 st-urbain discussed further into this text, explores the conditions of Cromwell tenants.

The residents of 3605 St. Urbain are fighting back against a renoviction by Cromwell Management. Their corporate owner, one of Quebec’s richest men, is George Gantcheff. Gantcheff and Cromwell’s relentless, unpredictable, and initially unlawful renovation project has reached a boiling point. Since January, more than 100 tenants have been renovicted from a 130 unit highrise. This construction has required turning off the building’s heating. Tenants are bracing for a freezing cold winter. Their only heat will come from space heaters provided by Cromwell. 

All but 14 tenants in the 130 unit building have left. Many tenants accepted the landlord’s offer to end their lease early and abandon their homes rather than live out intrusive renovations. Many elderly tenants had been living in the building for years. Cromwell has a history of performing renovictions and hiking rent in both Montreal and Toronto units. 

Renovictions provide an excuse for a landlord to drastically increase rent. This contributes significantly to gentrification and the acceleration of rent increases. The consequence is the enrichment of landlords at the expense of the continued impoverishment of working class people. 

3605’s landlord initially justified construction work as needed to fix the building’s heating system. Cromwell then took the opportunity to carry out massive renovations. Construction was further delayed and expanded. Tenants’ have since faced a lack of hot water, rusty water, dust and dirt everywhere, unbearable constant noise, and power outages. Cromwell turned the building into an unbearable construction zone– and used these conditions to pressure tenants to leave their units. One by one tenants moved out. Once a unit was cleared, the apartment would be gutted, allowing for construction to continually expand.

The majority of remaining tenants at 3605 have formed a tenants council that has been meeting regularly over the past two months. A member of the Montreal Autonomous Tenants’ Union, who has been active in organizing tenant councils in nearby buildings, assists at their meetings and coordinates between their council and the broader union. Hundreds of flyers and posters have since been distributed through the Plateau neighborhood, alerting the tenants’ neighbours to the situation and calling for solidarity.

The current tenants of 3605 refuse to be displaced for the sake of corporate profit.

​​​​​​​Revolutionary Tenant Unionism: Organizing on the Ground

The Montreal Autonomous Tenants’ Union, which is organizing with the building’s tenants is a union based on internal non-hierarchy, solidarity, the use of direct action, and tenant leadership. The broader goal is of a mass movement that can dramatically remove the power relations between people, not just for tenants, but everyone. SLAM (its French acronym) is devoted to the construction of tenant councils in tenants’ buildings and blocks. Members from SLAM attend these autonomous council meetings. Their role is to encourage and educate on direct action, provide advice when asked, and to help coordinate actions or support with the broader union apparatus without dominating discussion.

At the moment of writing, SLAM, which is less than a year old, has helped organize tenant councils in close to a dozen buildings across Montreal. Active tenants include over 40 unionists or participants in councils. There is a broader support network of some 100-150 that have signed petitions or come to events. 

The two-and-a-half months of organizing in 3605 St-Urbain (the building under renoviction), has been a rewarding challenge for organizers. The remaining tenants are all older than 40. They come from a plethora of backgrounds. The meetings are unconventional. Group discussion is only sustainable for as much as 30 seconds before interruptions lead to impromptu side conversations. Attention and “the floor” are very difficult to hold. Added to this is the fact that, because of this working class crew’s disjunctered set of schedules, meetings are held late at night. They can sometimes drag past 11pm.   

When the union first heard from a tenant in 3605, they were contacted by a kind and respected leader figure in the building. This person already organized a first meeting between tenants. With only small encouragement from the union these council meetings continued. 

When SLAM’s organizer first entered the group, tenants were primarily axed on using housing Tribunals to resolve their issues with Cromwell. This was too bad. Without getting too much into the weeds, it’s fair to say that a mass and combative movement capable of replacing corporate control with tenant control will not come from starting court cases. Engaging with tribunals is individualization of social problems at its finest. 

In the early meetings of 3605’s council, SLAM’s organizer brought several samples of collective letters other tenant councils had written to their landlord, discussed the benefits of collective action, and even played videos of direct action and showed news clippings. These videos included SLAM’s June march on Cogir’s head offices. The march won tenants thousands of dollars in reparations, rent savings, and construction work without tenants opening a single case at the Tribunal. Through continuous discussion, some proposals for above-ground collective action were finally proposed and accepted by 3605’s tenants. These resolutions were catered to tenants’ specific situation and comfort zones. 

Once some actions were decided, SLAM helped call a general assembly of its tenant organizers and supporters. Roughly 16 tenants crammed into the union’s usual meeting space, including several older working class tenants. These older tenants had involved themselves in the union out of need, became leaders in their councils, and were now ready for more. At this meeting, two banner paintings were planned, media liaisoning, a social media strategy, and a guided tour of 3605. 

The banners turned out beautifully and several were strung up Saturday in the lobby and on the exterior of 3605. The tour of the rundown building was attended by more than 30 neighbours, union members, and supporters. Some neighbours had been contacted during the door knocking of apartments on the same street showed up. They were absolutely enraged and engaged. They had their own analysis and experiences and wanted to support in any way they could. One woman requested to join SLAM. 

Tenants have been encouraged by these initial actions (the company, on the other hand, had met the plan for a tour with a firm and aggressive response, posting threatening semi-legal notices and showing up at tenants doors in response). As the campaign moves forward past these first steps, the union will countinue to push for further direct action and escalation. Tenants continue to be increasingly open to these tactics as they feel the power of solidarity from tenants outside their building.

Conclusion

The purpose of this short anecdote about organizing the beginnings of this campaign against Cromwell is to emphasize the importance of anarchists creating and inserting within groups where class antagonism is the clearest. We stand to help create councils, meeting places that build everyone’s collective power and autonomy. We aim also to push the struggle deeper and strengthen it. Maybe our ideology of non-hierarchy and combative revolutionary spirit does not make sense to everyone, but our tactics when proposed to people’s specific situations always should. This syndicalist strategy allows us to build respect and popularity for our methods among non-anarchists and become local “robin hoods” (in the words of one tenant from 3605).

The benefit of this form of syndicalism countinues to prove itself for SLAM. The union is not just the usual crowd of monolithic, ideologically inclined, younger, consciously committed organizers (although this demographic is important, and in majority at biweekly meetings). It has the capacity to organize in the diverse circles that make up the real core of our oppressed classes. 

Continued support and activation of anarchist comrades across Montreal remains as important as ever. Solidarity is essential! 

Our goal is not just the amelioration of conditions. As Lorenzo Kom-Boa Ervin writes in Anarchism and the Black Revolution, “we should throw out the rich bums and just take over! Of course we will have to fight the cops and security guards for the crooked landlords, but we can do that too! We can… build an independent tenants’ movement that will self-manage all the facilities, not for the government… but for themselves!”

Looking to support? Get in touch with the union:

slam.matu@protonmail.com or stay up to date on our instagram @slam.matu.

​​​​​​​Check out the union’s Kolektiva account for our documentary and future videos from SLAM.

Your Cancer, Courtesy of Capitalism

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Sep 092022
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Many cities in Quebec are home to one or more industries that destroy the environment and make the inhabitants sick.

In Rouyn-Noranda, Glencore benefits from a right to pollute that has allowed it to pocket billions for decades. The flora, the fauna, and all living things are affected. Vulnerable people, pregnant women, babies, and children, are particularly affected. All of this is indirectly with the permission of the Ministry of the Environment, who issues the remediation certificate that allows for exceeding the standards for emissions of a cocktail of heavy metals: arsenic, lead, nickel, chromium, cadmium, etc. These exceptions to compliance with provincial standards are an easy way for shareholders to profit.

We are an affinity group from Rouyn-Noranda. Today, we are starting a series of symbolic and direct actions against Glencore. We will no longer accept dying to enrich this kind of of ruthless multinational corporation! We have dropped this banner on the cancer research center that is delaying its operations because of hiring difficulties – and we understand! People who work in the health field do not want to come to Rouyn-Noranda to be poisoned.