Organizing Committee Against Islamophobia: Standing Together Against Hate

In June, I had the honour of speaking on a panel at the Sisters of the Roundtable, organized by the women’s committee of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. At that event, Sarah Ali spoke with such passion and eloquence about Islamophobia, and how we must combat hate, that I wanted to share it here.
— Laura Kaminker, President, Mississauga Library Workers Union

My name is Sarah Ali and I am a member of the Organizing Committee Against Islamophobia (OCAI). We are a committee of progressive community organizations, political parties, cultural groups, non-profits, unions and faith centers. We have come together from many different areas of struggle to recognize that the current political climate in North America is one of white supremacy and Islamophobia.

Islamophobia does not exist in a vacuum. We are 16 years into the War on Terror. Sixteen years that have marked a ramping up of Islamophobic political and public discourse. A political and public discourse required to justify the invasions and wars of imperialism and regime change in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and the list goes on. A discourse that dehumanizes Muslim lives, and renders brown bodies disposable. The same discourse that says that it is normal or even brave to kill Muslims through drone bombing in Pakistan, also says that Muslim women require saving. From themselves, from Muslim men, but never from the white security guards who, under [former Prime Minster Stephen] Harper, would force women to remove their veils for the citizenship oath.

This discourse is enormously pervasive. Studies show that Canadians fear Muslims far above any other minority. And it is enormously useful. This discourse allows Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to increase Canadian military spending by 65 billion dollars, and simultaneously call his foreign aid policy “feminist”. To applaud himself for accepting 25,000 refugees while taking part in the invasion and war of regime change in Syria. As though there are no women there. It allows for the unconditional support of Israel and the occupation of Palestine. A place where women give birth at checkpoints because even the unborn babies in their bodies represent a “security threat”.

Islamophobia doesn’t just justify a foreign policy that destroys the lives, homes and families of Muslim women. No, it also plays a key role in shaping surveillance culture domestically. I refer to Bill-C51: the bill initially packaged as the Omnibus Crime Bill, but now referred to as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015. Or how about the Barbaric Cultural Practises Act proposed by Kellie Leitch and passed under Harper? A law that codifies whistleblowing against Muslim families, but purportedly saves Muslim women. Or the Safe Third Country Agreement, which bars Muslim women fleeing violence in the United States from entering Canada, even though Donald Trump has openly called for a Muslim registry, and a ban on travel, among other things.

But, Islamophobia is not just harmful to Muslims. Sikh men have been targeted, attacked, and even murdered in Canada because the sheer ignorance of white supremacy confuses the Pagh for the Imama. Hindu women have been told to “go back to Arabia”, because the existence of brown skin on a woman labels her foreigner, terrorist, enemy, Muslim.

It is within this foreign and domestic policy context that we see the recently released report citing the 60% increase in hate crimes and hate related attacks against Muslims. It is within this context that we see the increasing visibility of Islamophobia – in the candidacies of Kellie Leitch and Marine LePen, and the elections of Donald Trump and Theresa May. Public figures now openly call for the surveillance, detention, deportation, and bans on Muslims.

At the same time, we are confronted by the open presence of far-right, nationalist, and fascist groups. Fascist groups that make unlikely bedfellows, but who find themselves able to recruit, unite and attack under a common hatred of Muslims. The JDL (Jewish Defense League), the Soldiers of Odin, the III%ers (three percent-ers), and even Hindutva fascist groups have diametrically opposed ideological bases, but come together once a month to convene at Nathan Phillips Square. They show up at Peel School Board meetings and performatively rip up Qurans as a gesture of their strength. All the while, standing shoulder to shoulder with Toronto Police Services.

The message is clear. Muslim lives, and especially Black Muslim women’s lives are disposable. Muslim children’s ability to pray in schools – a policy that was implemented decades ago – is no longer acceptable. When Ottawa police services killed Abdi Rahman Abdi, and then parade about the city with bracelets that “stood in solidarity” with the officer who murdered him, they are simply protecting public good. When Black and brown children in Toronto have armed officers in their classrooms, they are providing a “healthy learning environment”. When six Muslim men are massacred in a mosque simply for being Muslim, it is a “lone wolf”. Excuses after excuses being made to tell our community what we already knew. We are useful scapegoats.

We are useful scapegoats for austerity and unemployment. How often have you heard that immigrants, refugees, and “brown people” are taking our jobs? Of course, it is our government who is cutting social programs, selling off public services, closing schools, and gutting the welfare state.

So I’m sure the question on everyone’s mind is where to we go from here. The situation looks bleak, and for Muslim women, it feels even bleaker.

The answer lies in building a coalition of progressive forces.

When the JDL and the SOO show up on the streets of cities across Canada, it is our duty to confront them. When they argue in public forums that Muslims, refugees and immigrants are causing unemployment and austerity, we must continue the fight for a $15 minimum wage. When Desmond Cole and Black Lives Matter call on us to eject armed police officers from Toronto school boards, we need to be there – physically, with our letters to the editor, and on social media. When Indigenous communities say that Grassy Narrows needs clean water and that Canada 150 is actually 150 years of genocide and colonialism, we give up our Canada Day plans and stand in solidarity with them.

We must build a people’s coalition that calls for policy change. That unites to repeal the legislation that makes Canada unsafe.

We must abolish indefinite immigration detention, and create a path to residency and citizenship for undocumented workers and their families living in Canada.

We must ending the support for wars of imperialism and regime change. We must get Canada out of NATO, take back the money that is being spent on war and militarism and use it to support our communities through publicly owned housing, schools, and childcare.

We need a judicial system that supports victims of domestic and sexual violence, brings justice for the 1500 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, stops the police from killing unarmed young Black men, and provides comprehensive mental health care to LGBTQ youth.

Our struggles are connected, and we must fight together for a better future. It’s all of us or none of us. An injury to one is an injury to all!

CUPE 1989 Celebrates Our Strike-iversary!

On July 4, 2016, the members of CUPE Local 1989, Mississauga Library Workers, walked off their jobs and onto the picket lines. It was the first strike in our local’s history and the first strike against the City of Mississauga.

Three days earlier, in the largest turnout our local had ever seen, members voted overwhelmingly to reject the City’s final offer and exercise the most powerful tool that workers possess.

Why did we strike?

For fairness. For respect. For a living wage. You can read more about our issues here:

What did we gain?

  • We brought our Pages, our lowest paid members and 25% of our membership, from slightly more than minimum wage to $15/hour in one leap.
  • We fought off proposals from the City that would have pushed our part-time members — more than half our membership — further into precarity.
  • We made small but significant gains for our part-time workers. We did not go nearly as far as we wanted for our part-timers, but we did improve their contract, and we set the stage for gains in future bargaining.
  • We fought off City proposals that disrespected and burdened members who need sick time, and other outrageous demands.
  • We won a 1.75% increase for all our members for each of four years. This is still below cost of living! The cost of living rises about 2% each year, and most workers fall farther behind every year. However, after 0.5% increases for three consecutive years, we were proud to win 1.75% for all our members, full-time and part-time.

Who pays for all this?

It must be said, too, that none of these changes affect the taxpayers of Mississauga in any way. Mississauga residents who question how their taxes are spent might look to the City’s soaring executive salaries, which now total nearly $2.5 million. Managers who earn six-figure salaries — and who enjoy healthy increases of 3%, 4%, and more every year — are also public employees.

What next? 

So much of what we gained from our strike doesn’t appear in our collective agreement. The solidarity and strength we built, the deep connection our members now feel toward our union, the growth in our members’ confidence — we benefit from these changes every day, in ways large and small.

Our members found their voices, some for the first time. And once you find your voice, you never go back.

Thank you and beyond

Local 1989 is endlessly grateful to the people of  Mississauga for their support. Library customers — the people who use the excellent services that we provide — overwhelmingly supported our goals.

So many residents called and emailed the City, that phone lines were jammed and email bounced from overflowing inboxes. Customers wrote to their Councilors, passionately defending our cause and calling on the City to offer us a fair contract.

Local 1989 is also forever grateful to the Canadian labour movement for the overwhelming support we received. CUPE Ontario, CUPE National, the Peel Regional Labour Council, Peel District CUPE Council, the Toronto Public Library Workers, the Peel Children’s Aid Society, the Brampton City Workers, York Region workers — the list goes on and on. We never could have done it without you, and more importantly, we never had to.

CUPE 1989 Honoured by CUPE Ontario, Thanks our Community

CUPE 1989 was tremendously proud and honoured to be recognized at the CUPE Ontario Convention this week.

The Mississauga Library Workers were one of 13 CUPE Ontario locals to have gone on strike or be locked out during the past year. It was fitting that instead of keynote speakers, convention organizers decided to gather the striking and locked out locals for a townhall.


Also this week, CUPE 1989 participated in our first community event as an independent local. At the Bread & Honey Festival in Streetsville, we gave away new books, each with a beautiful 1989 bookmark inside. The books were biographies of notable Canadians written for children and youth.

Everyone loves free books! We gave away around 1,000 books and had to pack up early when we ran out! These gifts were our way of thanking the community for their support during our strike, as well as spreading the joy of reading.


CUPE 1989 Supports Striking Zoo Workers, and You Should, Too

Members of CUPE 1600, Toronto Zoo workers, are on strike to protect good jobs that support our communities, as well as the best possible conditions for the 5,000 animals in their care.

Toronto Zoo management wants workers to accept a contract that weakens job security — which means more precarious jobs in the GTA and a lower standard of care for the animals. You can’t maintain a world-class education, research and conservation facility with unstable, precarious workers.

In 1997, Toronto Zoo workers were on strike for nine weeks. Through their struggle, they achieved an important contract provision called a “minimum complement”. This means that the Zoo can farm out some work to private contractors, but it cannot employ fewer than 150 full-time, permanent employees. This is good for the workers, good for the animals, and good for our communities, as people with decent, full-time work support the economy and the social fabric in ways that precarious workers cannot.

Now Zoo management wants to remove the minimum complement provision from the workers’ contract. This would mean that dozens, possibly hundreds, of people who now have decent work, with benefits and a pension, would soon be unemployed!

There is only one reason employers try to remove minimum complement provisions — because they plan to fire permanent employees and hire private, for-profit contractors. The contractors usually pay minimum wage — and pocket the difference. Let’s be clear: privatization doesn’t save money. Taxpayers never see a savings. (Remember, CUPE members are taxpayers, too!) All privatization does is shift public money into private hands.

In other words, the employer is demanding that workers sign a contract that will put them out of work. In effect they would be signing their own termination notice! Would you want to do that?

The Zoo workers have no choice but to say NO, and to defend the benefits they’ve won and protected for 20 years. Every union member — and every working person — should support them.

Ask yourselves, too, which is better for animals — to be cared for by a stable, consistent number of full-time staff who are paid decently for their work, or a rotation of part-time, minimum-wage workers who invest little in their jobs, because the employer invests nothing in them? Decent jobs for Zoo workers mean decent conditions for animals.

If you can get to the CUPE 1600 picket line, the workers will truly appreciate your effort. Picket information is here.

Whether or not you can visit a picket line, we can all email the Zoo Board of Governors, and demand they offer their workers a fair contract.

It doesn’t have to be anything long and involved. “I love the Toronto Zoo and I want Zoo workers to have a fair contract! We want good jobs in our communities and fair deals for the workers who provide our services!” is enough. Contact information is below.

April 28: Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job

April 28 is the Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job.

The canary is a potent symbol and a powerful reminder. This small, fragile bird was the only thing that stood between miners and a suffocating death. The world over, workers are little more than canaries in their own workplaces.

No worker should ever be killed or injured because of work, yet it happens on a regular basis. In our current climate of precarious work, it is happening more frequently.

When workers do not have guaranteed work, or don’t get enough hours, or earn too little to survive, they are much less likely to speak up about unsafe working conditions. Employers know this. In the precarious workplace, all too often there is scant attention given to health and safety standards.

Privatization of services also causes workplace injuries and death, as companies — with no public oversight — cut corners to squeeze more profit out of services that should not be generating profit.

Understaffing also causes injuries and deaths, as workers are required to do work previously assigned to two or more workers.

Working alone has become commonplace in many fields. Working alone means there is no one to administer CPR, to help if an accident happens, to call for help if there is a violent confrontation.

Injury and death on the job are not merely “accidents” or “tragedies” that just happen. All too often, they are the result of precarious work, austerity measures, and privatization. All too often, they are preventable deaths.

On April 28, the Day of Mourning for Workers Killed or Injured on the Job, we should pause to mourn our losses and renew our commitment to ending such tragedies.

CUPE 2073 Canadian Hearing Society Workers Need Your Support

Fair Contract Now in American Sign Language (ASL)

The 227 members of CUPE Local 2073, Canadian Hearing Society workers, have been on strike since March 6. They have been without a contract — or a salary increase — for four years.

Full-time staff has been reduced by almost 30% over three years. In that same time period, the salaries of the president and CEO increased by a shocking 75 percent.

The Canadian Hearing Society is funded primarily by the Province of Ontario — that is, by taxpayers. Tax dollars that could be used to fund vital services are instead being funnelled into lavish executive salaries.

And the services these CUPE workers provide are vital indeed. What do the members of CUPE 2073 do?

— Highly skilled sign-language interpreters use sign language and spoken language to provide clear two-way communication between deaf and hearing people, so that deaf people can participate in mainstream life.

— Community workers provide coping and communication skills to older adults, including help with assistive technology, so seniors can remain safe and independent.

— General support workers provide a wide range of services and assistance so that people with different degrees of hearing loss can manage daily life.

— Language instructors assist newcomers to Canada, helping them learn English and ASL. (Sign language is not universal, so newcomers must learn both English and ASL.)

— Settlement workers provide services and guidance for Deaf, oral deaf, deafened, and hard of hearing newcomers, and teach daily life skills, to help people adapt to life in Canada and live independently.

— Counselors provide professional support for mental health issues, addiction, abuse, and other urgent needs, and help clients connect with appropriate healthcare resources.

— Audiologists and audiology assistants administer hearing tests, prescribe hearing aids, fit people with devices and teach how to use them, and even repair hearing aids.

Members of the CUPE 1989 Executive Board signing “fair contract now” at the CUPE 2073 picket line.

The community has been shocked to learn that staff cutbacks and salary freezes coincide with outrageous executive salaries. In a recent CBC story, George Postlethwait Jr., president of the Ontario Association of the Deaf, called the steep increase in top executive salaries “a slap in the face to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.”

Canadian Hearing Society CEO Julia Dumanian earned almost $269,000 in 2016, $115,000 more than her predecessor earned in 2013. Dumanian was appointed CEO in 2015, after being fired on from her previous position at Cambridge Memorial Hospital for “outstanding and ongoing governance and management matters,” according to then-minister of health David Caplan.

Dumanian has declined to speak to the media and has made no public statements about the strike.

The members of CUPE 2073 are standing strong, fighting for a fair deal for themselves and quality services for the people who use their services. They need our support. Picket lines are active in 21 Ontario locations, and donations to the strike fund are greatly needed. See the CUPE Ontario website for picket locations and times, and where you can send donations.


Disrupt and Transform: 2017 CUPE Ontario Library Workers Conference

The 2017 CUPE Ontario Library Workers Conference was a very special event for the Mississauga Library Workers Union. Over the course of two days, our 2016 strike and the great gains we made for our members were celebrated from the podium again and again. In the same way, the tremendous perseverance and solidarity shown by the Essex County Library Workers — on strike for a stunning eight months — were noted, applauded, cheered, and celebrated, again and again. For the 1989 executive board, it was a joyous event.

The theme of this year’s conference was Disrupt and Transform — which is exactly what our strikes did. They transformed our union, our relationship with our employer, and ourselves.

Library Warriors!

We were welcomed by CUPE Ontario Library Chair Maureen O’Reilly, who is president of Local 4948, Toronto Public Library Workers, and by Chad Goebel, Vice President of Windsor District CUPE Council. Amanda Meloche, President of the Windsor Public Library Workers Union, noted: “It’s not just Essex and Mississauga that have Library Warriors. We’re all Library Warriors!” Very true!

Keynote speaker Desmond Cole began by talking about his love for libraries, and how, when he was growing up, the local library was his second home. He remembers carrying a book bag, and his mother’s rule that he could borrow as many books as fit in the bag; every week the bag would be overflowing. For many conference participants, this was the first time they had heard Desmond speak, and most were entranced. He’s a truly engaging speaker with a powerful message.

Desmond has been instrumental in shining a light on racism in Canada, especially racist policing practices. He said he was touched and very proud that his article in Toronto Life magazine — The Skin I’m In — was featured in our conference book.

Desmond talked about how collective action can have a direct impact — how it changes our lives and our society. Recently Desmond called a ministry office to urge them to stop a deportation. A family was being broken up, and a woman, eight months pregnant, was being forced to risk her health by flying. The ministry representative said to Desmond, “What makes you think you speak for Canadians?” Within minutes, Desmond was on Twitter, reaching out to the community, asking supporters — for whom he does speak — to call the ministry. Result: the woman was not deported. The family remained intact. When we are organized and mobilized, we can disrupt the status quo, and transform the world.
The 1989 Executive Board at the end of the CUPE Ontario Library Workers Conference. 

Lori Wightman, head of the Essex County Library Workers, and I, as president of CUPE 1989, each made presentations about our locals’ strikes.

Lori talked about the huge community support their union built, how they faced down the Essex Council, and how the devious, union-busting tactics of the Council will be remembered at election time. It was no surprise, later in the conference, when Lori was elected to the CUPE Ontario Library Workers Committee. I look forward to working with her!

I talked about how we built member engagement, strengthened our labour-management meetings, and took a new approach at the bargaining table. These factors, working together synergistically, paved the way for our successful strike.

I also listed the great gains we made. There are the tangible gains, like bringing our pages from slightly more than minimum wage to $15/hour in one leap and preventing our part-timers from being forced to work every Saturday. And there are many intangible gains, such as the strength and solidarity we built, and the confidence and courage our members gained when they found their voices, stood up, and fought back.

We also screened our awesome strike video! If you’ve never seen it — or if you haven’t seen it in a while — why not watch it now?

Chris Taylor, President of Unifor Local 200, talked about the historic Windsor Ford Strike of 1945, which led directly to the Rand Formula. Chris emphasized — he warned us — about the so-called “Right to Work” legislation that has spread through the United States, leaving depressed wages and increased poverty in its wake.

Representing the members of Locals 1989 and 2974, we were honoured onstage.

If Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservative Party had won the last provincial election, our ability to run our unions could have been destroyed. Hudak was defeated through the mobilization of the Canadian labour movement. Chris’ talk was an excellent reminder that we must always be vigilant. Our rights don’t protect themselves.

Local reports are always a highlight of the conference. Hearing about the struggles and successes of other library unions renews our commitment and bolsters our strength. We are all dealing with the same issues, but our contracts vary widely. By sharing information, we all grow stronger at the bargaining table.

It was my great honour to introduce Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. I recalled Fred’s tireless support during our strike, and how he helped bring the City of Mississauga back to the bargaining table, while still respecting our local’s autonomy and supporting our demands. Fred, I said, is the embodiment of why we call each other brother and sister.

A little library humour — and a great honour.

Fred’s talk was typically moving. He talked about libraries as collectives — people working together to bring our shared, public resources to people who need them. He reminded us of the silver linings of a strike — the bonds it creates, and yes, the fun we had! And he noted that the record number of strikes throughout Ontario in the past year made him proud. That’s how you know Fred is a true unionist.

Fred reminded us that there’s nothing wrong with being aggressive when defending the rights of our members: when you’re on the right side of the question, you are right to keep fighting!

Both Fred and Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario, emphasized the need for solidarity with other striking locals. Right now, workers from a Children’s Aid Society are locked out by their employer, and the members of the Canadian Hearing Society workers’ union are fighting harsh concessions, after being without a contract for four long years. I join Fred and Candace in urging you to support these locals however you can: there’s information here.

At one point during the Conference, members from the Mississauga and Essex County libraries were called on stage to be honoured. In a bit of library humour, Lori Wightman and I were given some gifts, including a Wonder Woman action figure and a play crown. It was very funny — and very touching.

The CUPE 1989 Executive Board thanks our members for giving us the opportunity to attend this excellent conference. We know our union will benefit from it in many ways.

— submitted by Laura Kaminker

Sign the Petition: the OLA Should Oppose Staffless Libraries

Note: this petition addresses librarians only. We will have a second petition for all library workers later on.

This week, the Toronto Public Library announced plans to open libraries with no staff. Not just no librarians — we’ve seen that in many places — but no staff whatsoever.

This was bad enough, but we were further horrified to see that the Ontario Library Association, a membership-based organization that is supposed to further the interests of libraries and librarians, seems to support this idea. OLA Executive Director actually defended this drastic, regressive measure as “innovative”.

If you are a librarian in Ontario, we hope you will provide feedback to the OLA through this petition: The OLA Should Oppose Staffless Libraries. Please consider sharing with your own library network.

* * * *

March 23, 2017

Shelagh Paterson
Executive Director
Ontario Library Association
Toronto, Ontario

Dear Ms. Paterson:

We, the undersigned, are public librarians in the province of Ontario and members of the Ontario Library Association (OLA). We are concerned and disturbed by the OLA’s apparent support for current trends in library staffing that are grossly detrimental to our profession and to the public we serve.

The Toronto Public Library has announced plans to open staffless libraries. This is antithetical to the core values of our profession and to our shared vision of what libraries are and should be.

In a Toronto Star article about this development, you are quoted as saying, “we’re very lucky here in Ontario that we have a library culture that is willing to try new things . . . and I would say that sometimes what drives that is budget cuts.”

We are deeply disturbed that, rather than advocating for adequate library funding, the OLA would re-define budget cuts as a driver of innovation.

The Star article also quotes you as saying, “I think you may not actually see the librarian in your visit to the library, but there is a librarian behind the scenes putting it all together and delivering a really excellent service.”

A staffless library can never be “a really excellent service.” Librarians and library staff “behind the scenes” of a building devoid of people are not enough. A truly excellent library service is one in which educated, trained professionals offer a wide range of services that support literacy, lifelong learning, and social engagement, and enable communities to thrive.

The OLA’s mission statement states that the organization enables members to “deliver exemplary library and information services throughout Ontario.” A library without librarians – indeed, a library without library staff of any kind – is not an exemplary library, and is indeed not a service of any kind.

Further, the OLA’s vision of an Ontario where everyone is “free to imagine, learn and discover, and recognize and celebrate library and information services as an essential resource for realizing individual aspirations and developing communities” is exactly the opposite of the current trend towards minimal – and now, nonexistent – staffing. A staffless library privileges members of our community who are affluent, information-rich, and technologically literate, and increases social inequality.

We believe the OLA should unequivocally oppose the staffless library.

We believe the OLA should actively advocate for well funded, fully staffed libraries, and should actively promote the value to the community of librarians and other educated, trained library staff.


The Undersigned Ontario Librarians

Sign here: The OLA Should Oppose Staffless Libraries.

International Women’s Day: #DayWithoutAWoman on March 8, 2017

On March 8, 2017, women in more than 35 countries around the globe will participate in a women’s strike — a day without a woman.

Work traditionally done by women is often invisible, despite being the backbone of society. Women’s labour is usually undervalued and underpaid, beginning with raising children and keeping families safe, and including picking crops, cleaning, teaching, and taking care of the sick, disabled, and elderly.

These days, thanks to decades of struggle, women in many countries — including, of course, Canada — excel in all professions and in all fields. However, even in our “advanced” country, women still earn less than their male counterparts doing the same job: see, for example, Mind the gap: Work toward closing the gender wage gap (CUPE 2015).

The Women’s Strike on March 8, 2017 seeks to highlight these facts. It also calls attention to sexism and misogyny that are pervasive in our society. The new administration in the United States is not the only problem — it is a symptom of a widespread and dangerous disease.

The ideal situation on March 8 would be “a day without women” — every woman in the world withholding her labour for one day. However, for many women, this is impossible — it would put their livelihoods or their families (or both) at risk.

Organizers are calling for women to participate in one or more of three ways:
1. Wear RED in solidarity
2. Strike from paid and unpaid work
3. Buy nothing, or buy only locally-made products

More reading on the Day Without A Woman:


Black History Month: A. Philip Randolph

CUPE Local 1989 celebrates Black History Month by highlighting the life and work of A. Philip Randolph.

A. Philip Randolph was a labour organizer, a civil rights leader, a journalist, and one of the most influential African-American leaders of the 20th Century.

A. Philip Randolph said: “Freedom is never given. It is won.”

With his friend Chandler Owen, Randolph founded and was co-editor of The Messenger, an African-American socialist magazine.

Randolph is best remembered for establishing (in 1925) and leading the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first African-American labour union. The union — which was active in both the US and Canada — represented nearly 10,000 Black men and women who worked for railroads.

The men and women in the union worked as porters and maids for the Pullman Company’s luxury overnight trains. They worked very long hours for little pay, with no job security. Half their wages would be spent on food and lodging while on the job. They even paid for their own (mandatory) uniforms, and relied mainly on tips for income.

These men were not even allowed the dignity of their own names — all Pullman Porters were called “George,” after owner George Pullman.

A book about the Pullman Porters is called “My name’s not George.

Randolph and the Brotherhood faced opposition on all fronts — from other unions, from the Black community, and of course from their employer.

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) reflected the racism and discrimination that was the norm in the US at that time, so there was much opposition to accepting the Brotherhood as part of the broader labour movement.

Many African-Americans viewed the Pullman workers as elite and well-off — after all, they had steady employment. At the same time, many middle-class Blacks viewed union organizers as trouble-makers who would give their a community a bad name.

The Pullman Company tried everything to keep the workers from organizing, including a smear campaign against Randolph himself.

But the Brotherhood persisted. In 1937, after more than 10 years of struggle, the Pullman Company finally signed a collective agreement with the Brotherhood.

A. Philip Randolph was one of the principal organizers of the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom.

In the 1940s, Randolph was the driving force behind ending discrimination in government defense factories and in desegregating the armed forces. Both of these milestones occurred decades before the civil rights movement was even recognized by the mainstream United States.

Randolph was also a principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington at which Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

A. Philip Randolph knew that without economic justice, there can be no freedom. He spent his life fighting for workers, and he made a real difference.