The room at the Jane Street Hub was crowded with people coming to hear about the Campaign for “$15 and Fairness”. $15? That’s the Ontario minimum wage the campaign is fighting for. Fairness? That’s all about the improved working conditions the Campaign wants to see brought in through changes to Ontario’s workplace legislation.
It’s obvious that for millions of us the workplace has been changing for the worse. It’s become harder and harder to get jobs that pay a living wage, that provide dependable employment, benefits such as sick pay and decent schedules. This is a fundamental source of the struggle so many have to get by at the same time that we see those at the top of the scale becoming better and better off. The Campaign has been fighting to address these problems.
Deena Ladd, Coordinator of the Worker’s Action Centre which played a central role in the Campaign, remarked on how awareness of and support for the Campaign’s demands had grown. Leaks in the press indicated that the government was likely to support a $15 minimum wage and some of the other demands of the Campaign. Deena emphasized the important role that strong organizing had played in helping to build the public pressure needed to bring this about.
Patty Coates Secretary-Treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) spoke about “Make it Fair” the parallel campaign of organized labour. That campaign has emphasized the importance of making it easier for workers to unionize.
Malka Paracha is a food service supervisor at York University and a member of UNITE HERE Local 75. She described a long, difficult, but inspiring struggle at the University that ultimately succeeded in obtaining a breakthrough contract.
Fatima Mussa is a Project Coordinator at Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services at Jane Street and Woolner . She described why Access Alliance became actively involved in the 15 and Fairness Campaign. It’s simple: low wages and stressful working conditions are a central cause of poor health.
Laurie Simpson, is the chair of the Weston Chapter ACORN. She spoke of her organization’s strong support of the Campaign’s objectives and activities.
The Ontario government is committed to making changes to workplace legislation. It established a Changing Workplaces Committee to make recommendations to it. The Committee had made its recommendations the day before the meeting.
Deena Ladd summarized those recommendations. She pointed to some that were positive, some that were negative and some that were missing.
Access Alliance and co-EMCEE and local activist Chiara Padovani had an appointment to see York South-Weston MPP Laura Albanese the next day. The attendees made suggestions about what they should tell her the government should do with the Committee’s recommendations.
The attendees were treated to moving spoken word and musical performances by MC Mohammad Ali and local resident Zoey Amour. They also heard a closing deeply stirring performance of a piece composed by co-EMCEE Donna Michelle St. Bernard which you can find on Youtube.
On May 30 the Ontario government announced Bill 148, a package of proposed reforms to workplace legislation. The Bill does not contain all of the changes the Campaign wanted. But if brought into law it means a huge step for workers in Downsview and right across Ontario. Here are some of the changes: a $15 minimum wage within 18 months, measures to make it easier to join a union, equal pay for part-time, casual, temporary and contract workers and fairer scheduling. Let’s work to make sure the Bill passed. The lesson? Organizing for change can succeed!