Why I Picketed with the Library Workers

There was something glorious yesterday about feeling the enthusiastic grassroots support for Toronto librarians at our “book-in” in the spring sunshine. About 250 to 300 people showed up carrying their favourite book by a Canadian writer and we’re holding them up in the above photograph. Ironically enough, Greg Hollingshead, chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada, is holding up a book by Jane Jacobs about the new dark age. I’m holding up his collection of short stories, The Roaring Girl, which won the Governor General’s fiction award and Oryx and Crake, a novel about our very bleak future by Margaret Atwood. Is there a message there?

The strike by Toronto’s library workers isn’t about getting more money although that would be nice. Many librarians still make little more than minimum wage. The strike happened because their union is afraid that Rob Ford and his allies on the Toronto library board intend to shutter more libraries. They can do this if they remove a clause that gives library workers some job protection. Once that clause is gone, the library board along with Ford and his allies are free to close more libraries.

Remember, 107 library jobs have been cut this winter although writers, readers and librarians won terrific support for our public libraries last fall. And more cuts will come if we don’t stand up to Rob Ford.

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