In Oshawa, Ontario, former auto manufacturing workers are clamouring to be put back to work to make much needed N95 masks. Green Jobs Oshawa began campaigning to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) in early April, and this work led to GM signing a contract with the federal government to make 1 million surgical masks per month, employing 50-60 people.
“Green Jobs Oshawa welcomes this as an important step forward,” the group said in a press release on Thursday, “However, GM’s plans are far short of what is needed.”
The Council of Canadians recently hosted a webinar with Green Jobs Oshawa discussing the possible and proposed changes to public services and the manufacturing industry to support the transition to a low-carbon economy. Their group realized a few key facts: that the GM facility in Oshawa is nearly empty, that many former GM workers still live in the community and that those workers could be put back to work. They came together to call for the GM facility to be nationalized and used to manufacture socially beneficial products like electric cars. As the COVID-19 crisis arose, it became clear that there was an immediate need for PPE, and so their campaign shifted to account for the changing needs.
Green Jobs Oshawa hosted a solidarity cavalcade on May 9 to demonstrate ongoing support for frontline health care workers, and to rally support behind the campaign to manufacture N95 masks in Oshawa. More than 70 people participated in the cavalcade (while maintaining a safe distance from each other!).
Green Jobs Oshawa’s work is part of a robust and realistic Green New Deal. We need to transform the systems we have today, like a highly privatized and profit-driven manufacturing sector, into systems that truly work for people and the planet. The GM factory has been subsidized by city, provincial and federal governments since its creation. Wouldn’t it be nice if the manufacturing infrastructure and skilled labour that has been sustained due to constant public investment could serve public needs?
The most pressing public need right now is to suppress the spread of COVID-19. Health care workers are on the front lines of keeping us all healthy and safe – their safety is paramount. We need a huge supply of personal protective equipment in order to do that. Unfortunately, the many-decades trend of prioritizing profit and efficiency over effective health care delivery has left us short on PPE and without the socially oriented supply chains to fill in the gaps.
We need public ownership and democratic control over our manufacturing sector, including the GM factory in Oshawa, to enable us to produce things we really need, like PPE and non-emitting vehicles. We need a manufacturing industry that is responsive to real social needs, not the profit motives of corporations.
Green Jobs Oshawa’s work to manufacture N95s continues! Will you help out by signing their petition?
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