The following statement was released Jan. 21 by John Steele, spokesperson for the Communist League in Canada.
Working people across the country and beyond should celebrate the Jan. 19 “not guilty” verdicts in the frame-up trial of locomotive engineer Tom Harding and train traffic controller Richard Labrie, both members of United Steelworkers Local 1976. The 12-member jury in Sherbrooke, Quebec, exonerated them on all charges. It’s a resounding victory for workers’ rights, the fight for railroad safety, and the struggle against the bosses’ productivity drive that underlies the current dramatic increase in workplace injuries and deaths.
The two rail workers, along with a low-level Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway manager, were each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death in the July 2013 derailment and explosion of a 72-car oil train in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Harding also faced two additional charges related to dangerous driving of railway equipment. After almost nine days of deliberations, the jury — reflecting support for Harding and Labrie in Lac-Mégantic, across Quebec and among many working people throughout Canada and elsewhere — saw through the prosecution’s smoke and mirrors, the rail bosses’ propaganda campaign, and the government cover-up of the company’s deadly profits-before-safety practices.
Pending federal regulatory charges under the Railway Safety Act and the Fisheries Act, along with a class action lawsuit that includes Harding and Labrie, should be dropped!
The political impact of this victory was registered Jan. 23 when Ottawa announced it would fund the construction of a railway bypass around the town — a demand the people of Lac-Mégantic have been fighting for since the disaster.
The bosses, cops and prosecution targeted Harding, claiming that as driver of the train he alone bore responsibility for the runaway cars that blew up in Lac-Mégantic, killed 47 people and destroyed the downtown core. A safety-conscious rail worker with decades of experience, Harding set an example for other workers through his determined courage and dignity in standing up to the frame-up. He was used as a scapegoat along with Labrie by the MMA bosses and Transport Canada officials. For years they worked hand in glove to maximize MMA shareholder profits, undermining the safety of rail workers and of those living near the tracks.
Working people can identify with Harding’s and Labrie’s fight for justice because we all face the horrendous impact of the propertied rulers’ productivity drive. The bosses force fewer workers to produce more in less time for less pay and fewer benefits under increasingly unsafe conditions. This is the employers’ response to their worldwide capitalist crisis, generated by falling profit rates and the inevitable slowdown in production and trade.
We know that when workplace injuries and deaths occur, whether on railways, in mines, on construction sites, in hospitals or meatpacking plants it is the “boots on the ground,” as the prosecution described Harding, who take the rap.
We can fight this carnage by using union power to fight for workers control of safety on the job. Along this road we will transform our unions into class-struggle organizations and gain the confidence and know-how to build our own revolutionary working-class party — the kind we need to fight to replace the political power of the bosses with a workers and farmers government similar to the government installed by Cuban working people in their 1959 socialist revolution.
With this kind of government we can begin organizing and mobilizing working people to uproot dog-eat-dog capitalist social relations, and build a society where the fruits of our labor are used to satisfy the needs of the working majority across Canada and around the world, where no worker has to die on the altar of capitalist profits.
These are the lessons of this victory to discuss with co-workers, friends, relatives, and workers on their doorsteps. Join us in getting the truth out about this victory and in building the Communist League.