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Almost five thousand CUPE members from across Canada gathered in Qub0065c City last week to send a clear message to government leaders gathered at the Summit of the Americas: Any trade agreement that doesnt protect public services, democracy, the environment and human rights is unacceptable.

Busloads of CUPE members travelled from cities in Qub0065c and Ontario with a huge contingent from CUPE Local 301, representing outside workers in Montreal and CUPE Local 1500, representing Qub0065c-Hydro workers. Large groups from York University (CUPE Local 3903) and the University of Toronto (CUPE Local 3902) joined busloads of members from Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener, Guelph and Ottawa.

As well, there were CUPE members from St. Johns to Vancouver as National Executive Board members joined the International Solidarity Committee and CUPE members from all parts of the country who got to Qub0065c on their own steam.

Wearing scarves with the message On the front line locally and globally, CUPE members could be seen at the wall of shame, marching through the streets of Qub0065c, and in the teach-ins and public meetings where issues and alternatives were being debated.

Our members stood in solidarity with those who oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the attack on democracy and our public services that these negotiations represent, said National President Judy Darcy.

Some highlights:

  • More than a thousand labour activists from throughout the Americas attended a forum on workers and the FTAA on April 18. Part of the Peoples Summit, the forum examined the impact of free trade on working conditions and union organizing, adopting an action plan to promote alternatives.
  • From Qub0065c to Qatar, Stop the Selloff was the theme of a session organized by the Common Front on the WTO (World Trade Organization) on April 19. This forum used a range of media (including a presentation in three languages by the Radical Cheerleaders!) to convey its message: public services are threatened by free trade agreements such as the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the FTAA.
  • CUPE was on the front line supporting acts of civil disobedience on April 20. Members from across Canada joined with other labour groups to join with protesters in exposing the corporate agenda behind the Summit of the Americas. The group from labour went to the wall, a 3.8km chain link and concrete fence that was built to keep protesters away from Summit delegates.
  • On April 21 CUPE proudly joined 60,000 marchers in a mass demonstration against the FTAA. Union members, environmentalists, womens activists and others walked through the city, demonstrating the breadth and depth of the opposition to the FTAA.

During the course of the weekend, many CUPE members made their way individually and in groups up to the wall, some to participate in civil disobedience, others to accompany and witness those taking direct action. For most, it was their first experience of being tear-gassed and they were appalled that such tactics would be used in Canada to stifle dissent.

Many courageous CUPE members joined in protest at the Summit, making our outrage known to those who huddled behind the barricades, said Darcy. As a union, we are angered and ashamed at the way our government treated protesters in Qub0065c City. We are also tremendously proud that our members played such a key role in this protest.