Toronto’s outside municipal workers, members of CUPE 416, are celebrating a major milestone in their fight to keep solid waste collection public. Under intense pressure, the mayor has put the brakes on his own privatization plan.

When John Tory became mayor of Toronto, CUPE members in the city knew their fight against budget cuts and privatization was far from over. In many ways Tory, a less bombastic and controversial figure than the previous mayor, would be more effective at pushing the same right-wing agenda, doing so more politely than his predecessor.

Tory directly targeted the members of CUPE 416 in his election campaign, promising to privatize solid waste collection on the eastern side of the city.

Since late November CUPE 416 has been engaged in a campaign to bring the facts about solid waste privatization to the residents of Toronto. At the heart of their campaign were three key messages: the numbers presented by the mayor didn’t add up, there were no savings in privatization, and any decision to privatize would be based on little more than ideology.

This message was brought to residents through an ambitious ground campaign which had members, volunteers and allies knocking on doors, making phone calls and dropping leaflets across the city. Press conferences, radio ads and high-profile speakers at city meetings kept the local’s message front and center in the media.

With a groundswell of public pressure and support, CUPE 416 was able to reach out to councilors of all political stripes and convince them that the mayor’s privatization plan didn’t make sense.

Realizing his plan was headed for defeat Tory himself put forward a motion referring a city report back to staff. The report called for Scarborough collection to be put out to tender.

The motion, which featured language highly favourable to CUPE 416, passed 40-4 at council. CUPE 416 members who packed the council chamber celebrated by silently waving their hands in the air, complying with council’s rules against applause.

Photo by Linda Rose