Rank and File Rebellion: The 1981 Ontario Hospital Strike

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In 1981, Ontario hospital workers defied their employers, the government, and their own union officials to strike for nine days. They did not have the legal right to strike, but they struck anyway, proving that the rights you have are the ones you exercise.


The 1981 Ontario Hospital Strike (p.5):

The strike poses important questions for the union movement. What compelled hospital workers to strike illegally? How were members able to maintain the strike despite opposition from union officials? What forced the strikers back to work? What strategies could have been used to keep the picket lines strong? And how can we better prepare for next time?

In Their Own Words (p.30):

Food service worker: “The strike was a necessity, it brought us back to life, it restored my pride.”

Woman striker: “I don’t regret it – in fact, I’m glad we struck. You couldn’t begin to understand what it meant for me. I’m a different person at home and at work.

 How to be a Socialist at Work (p.35):

Our aim is to organize workers to take control of the workplace and, eventually, the world. If workers haven’t got the confidence and the ability to get more toilet paper, then they won’t be able to challenge the capitalist class. 

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. alan johnstone Says:

    i found it a very interesting history. However i wondered about this extract

    “..Real socialism is easy to understand. As Karl Marx said, “The liberation of the working class can be achieved only by the workers themselves.” In other words, if the majority of society is not actively involved in making economic and political decisions, then that is not socialism.
    Socialism is created when the working class takes collective control of work and society away from the powerful elite who rule us now. To become strong enough to do this, workers must have a political organization that can help us build democratic organizations inside and outside the unions… the only way forward will be far more effective when they organize themselves into a revolutionary workers’ party, not a party that aims to get itself into power, but a party that is dedicated to strengthening the confidence and organization of the working class so that it can come to power..”

    You do realise, don’t you, that this socialist party already exists in the form of the Socialist Party of Canada. It may not be perfect but why re-invent the wheel when a democratic socialist party that is not based on a vanguard cadre is already here with revolutionary credentials going back to the Winnipeg General Strike and the One Big Union.

    Check it out, perhaps even contact it and discover what we all share in common and how we could all co-operate.

  2. admin Says:

    Thank you for your contribution.

    It is imperative to support ALL individuals and organizations that are fighting against capitalism and for a worker-run society. At this point in time, we can’t have too many of them.

    It is counter-productive to argue which organization is best. Theoretical differences can be resolved only in practice. As we struggle together, the minor differences will evaporate, and the major ones will be decided on the basis of what will best take us forward.

    The bottom line is that we need a united front of all who are committed to building socialism.

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