This past week Canada’s second largest railroad, Canada Pacific, was taken over by an American hedge fund. Pershing Square, led by notorious William Ackman, succeeded in deposing the existing board of directors in the climax to an ongoing battle between them and “activist” shareholders. Ackman, offended by the inefficiency of CP, decided to take matters into his own hands by buying up over a billion dollars worth of CP stock and lobbying other shareholders to take over the board, a bid which finally succeeded a few days ago when CEO Fred Green agreed to step down. Rumours are that Hunter Harrison who recently ran CN Rail is set to take over, which has many CP workers very worried.

What had been ignored until yesterday was the ongoing dispute with railroad workers, who had been working without a contract since January (likely awaiting this decision). A strike vote had already passed overwhelmingly weeks ago, and it was known that they’d be in a position to strike legally sometime this week. Yesterday, the Teamsters made it official, and 72 hours notice. CP rail is set to strike.

The fact that nearly half of Canada’s freight rail infrastructure is now facing work stoppages is pretty significant. How it escaped attention up until this point is beyond me. To see this happen within days of an American takeover is a pretty stunning. We’ve seen this pattern before with companies like Stelco and Electro-Motive, but both the scale and the time-frame here have set new records. If they do strike, the question now is whether workers will be legislated “back to work” the way airline workers, mail carriers and teachers have been recently.

No job is safe from this madness. From public sector jobs to publicly held corporations, we’re all at risk from the “activists of austerity”, to whom every worker in the first world is overpaid and under-worked. The CP workers deserve our support and solidarity in showing Bill Ackman and his hedge fund friends that Canadian workers aren’t just going to line up to be laid off. No matter how successful this coup has been, this is one tin-pot dictator who’s going to have a very hard time making the trains run on time.

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