Activists Converge on Queen's Park for Massive Pension Rally

April 24, 2009, 11:38 AM EST

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Over 15,000 demonstrators lined the grounds of Queen's Park, waving flags and holding placards outside the Ontario Legislative Building on April 23, demanding immediate action from governments and corporations to protect workers pensions.

The event brought together union and non-union activists, community groups and senior organizations from across the province, a symbol of what CAW President Ken Lewenza called the "collective power of people" in his fiery speech to the crowd.

"Employers are taking advantage of this economic crisis to roll back the progress workers have made over the years to improve their standard of living," Lewenza said. "But we're going to use the collective power of the people to win economic and social justice."

Lewenza was joined by a long list of speakers, including labour leaders Ken Georgetti (President of the Canadian Labour Congress), Wayne Samuelson (President of the Ontario Federation of Labour), Smokey Thomas (President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union), and Sid Ryan (President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees - Ontario).

"Workers will not be fodder in this mess - workers didn't cause this mess," said Ryan.

CAW Retired Workers Council President and National Executive Board member Len Harrison spoke about the important contributions retired workers make to communities across the country every day through their tireless volunteer efforts.

Harrison, a General Motors retiree from CAW Local 199 in St.Catharines, Ontario, has been outspoken on the desperate need to ensure the Ontario Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund is fully backstopped by government, after comments from Premier Dalton McGuinty indicated the Fund was in jeopardy should a major corporation, like GM, go bankrupt.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath spoke about the connection between manufacturing job losses in the province and the growing pension crisis, calling on the government to backstop the Fund and increase the maximum monthly payout from $1,000 to $2,500.

Former CAW Local 1530 President Mary Jane MacKinnon, who represented workers at Nortel in Belleville, Ontario, and General Motors Salaried Pension Organization President Brian Rutherford, representing non-union employees at General Motors in Oshawa, also spoke at the rally.

The pension crisis is not just an issue that affects workers in the manufacturing sector, but one that touches all workers across the country, Lewenza said.

"It's about working people having the right to retire with dignity and respect, and not having to worry about their pension and retirement income."

Labour rallies will continue across the country in the coming weeks as part of the Canadian Labour Congress' Get Real! It's the Economy campaign.

Check the CAW website for more information:

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