NEWS: INPUD SUPPORTS TORONTO HARM REDUCTION WORKERS UNION (THRWU)
The International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) is pleased to support and show our solidarity with the Toronto Harm Reduction Workers Union (THRWU) who went public on 11 November 2014 with the first ever harm reduction workers’ union. Members of INPUD have been involved in this campaign.
The THRWU is a city-wide organization, representing over 50 employed, unemployed, and student workers. At the launch workers at two of the city’s largest harm reduction programs went public with their affiliation to the Union which is a part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The majority of these workers have been hired for their lived experience of using drugs, incarceration and homelessness and are continuing to organize with the goal of unionizing all of the city’s harm reduction workers.
Below is THRWU’s mandate and definition of harm reduction:
“THRWU is an organization of Harm Reduction Workers who are united together in solidarity, to improve our working conditions and to strengthen equality in the workplace for the betterment of the workers and those who access the services. We are a union of employed and unemployed workers committed to harm reduction with a range of skills, education and lived experience. We have come together in our common concerns to form a non-hierarchical democratic labour union with a commitment to mutual aid, social justice and the principles of harm reduction.”
“Harm reduction is an evidence-based and practical approach to dealing with the harms associated with drug use. Harm reduction is any program or policy designed to reduce drug-related harms without requiring the cessation or stopping of drug use. Along with efforts to address harms experienced on an individual level (such as through the distribution of safer use supplies and information), harm reduction also aims to respond to harm experienced on a structural or societal level (such as stigma, discrimination and criminalization). This work should be grounded in the values of respect, non-judgment, and in the promotion of self-determination and self-empowerment for folks involved!
We recognize that many healthcare and social service providers endorse a ‘harm reduction framework’ in name only. Our union will prioritize those workers who are actively engaged in harm reduction work, as defined above!”
In the context of the War on Drugs, in which our fellow workers are the casualties, an organizing campaign of this nature is exciting. The THRWU is setting itself up to be a powerful voice for harm reduction workers in workplaces as well as in broader political struggles.
We want to wish them luck with their new union and further organizing efforts!