Resistance Along the Rails: The genesis, scaling-up, and impact of two labour-community coalitions in Toronto
Friday 18 March
3 to 5 pm
in SS 2125
Sidney Smith Hall, 2nd Floor, 100 St. George Street
Theories of uneven development and the spatio-temporal fix, which already identify struggles between capital and labour as integral to geographical differentiation and the movement of capital between places, could be strengthened by better accounting for how other social movement actors—sometimes in coalition with labour or factions of capital—influence the timing, character, and consequences of deindustrialization and urban renewal. Between 2004-2014, a plethora of social movement activity emerged in the political riding of York South-Weston—an inner suburb of Toronto impacted by deindustrialization and racialized poverty, but also facing new challenges and opportunities associated with urban renewal. Drawing on three years of community-based participatory research, this paper discusses the genesis, organizing challenges, and impacts of two labour-community coalitions that began in York South-Weston: the Mount Dennis Weston Network (2004-2011) that rallied against a developer’s plan to convert a 57-acre parcel of industrial lands into a “big box” retail complex; and the Toronto Community Benefits Network (2012-2016) that formed to win a community benefits agreement covering a $5.3 billion light rail transportation project. I argue that organized labour played a critical role in scaling-up these coalitions in order to build power, integrate broader social and environmental justice concerns, and respond strategically to changing scales of neoliberal governance. I conclude with a critical evaluation of community benefits agreements as a strategy for labour renewal and asserting a right to the city.