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Toronto rallies for $15 and fairness

Valerie Lannon

April 15, 2015

In three separate actions today workers in Toronto rallied for $15 and fairness, which launched the campaign across Ontario as part of a global day of action to raise the minimum wage.
In the US with fast food workers walked off the job in 230 cities demanding $15 and the right to form a union. As McDonald’s worker Katherine Cruz said at the rally in Boston, “We world really hard to make 8.75 and not be able to live. I feel like we should all—not only McDonald’s, not only fast-food workers—everyone that lives off minimum wage should make more, so we can all support our families, support ourselves.” The actions included a die-in at a McDonald’s in New York to say that black lives matter and workers lives matter, with minimum wage disproportionately affecting people of colour.
There were solidarity actions in 40 cities around the world, including protests in Dublin and London and strikes in Italy and Amsterdam.
In Ontario workers launched the $15 and Fairness campaign, with over a dozen actions in 10 cities across the province. In Toronto there were three actions today. SEIU workers rallied outside McDonald’s headquarters in solidarity with workers in the US, and McDonald’s staff brought out smoothies in support. At Pearson International Airport workers with Unifor, CUPE, Teamsters and PSAC united to demand $15 and fairness. Leaflets at the airport explained that for airport workers fairness means proper advanced notice for all shift, a minimum number of sick days, the same benefits for part-time/temporary/casual/contact as permanent full-time workers, and an end to contracting out. And about 250 energetic people from union, non-union and student backgrounds attended today’s rally in front of the office of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, organized by the Workers Action Centre.
Toronto rally
Outside the Ministry of Labour, OFL President Sid Ryan pointed out that hundreds of thousands of people make only minimum wages, so labour supports this campaign. He looked to Seattle’s success with the $15 minimum wage campaign, and said this rate should be the absolute minimum.
David Anderson, from UNITE H.E.R.E. Local 75 spoke about how some youth work to survive, while some work in order to go to school and improve their lives. Either way, the minimum wage is too low.
Deb Henry is a UNIFOR member who works at a Metro supermarket. She read out the formal definition of “precarious”, showing how it perfectly describes the life of many workers. She stated, “We need decent, stable and enough hours of work. Instead there are no guaranteed hours so how do you plan your life or get another job? There is a struggle to find child care because of the unpredictable hours.  It used to be normal to have full time jobs and this should be our right.”
Alastair Woods from the Canadian Federation of Students said “Following our dreams has turned into a nightmare, with high tuition costs and precarious jobs. We are told we are being unrealistic and offensive.  But what is really offensive is precarious work and the low minimum wage. We need to build a society that is stable and equitable.”
Jim Deutsch, a member of Health Providers Against Poverty noted, “Income has a huge impact on health, and neoliberalism increases inequality.” In supporting the $15 and Fairness campaign, Deutsch condemned the minimum wages paid in health facilities.
Myles Magner of OPSEU reminded the crowd, “An injury to one is an injury to all. So support this campaign because every worker will benefit, and the bosses can't divide us.  The campaign is also important to make it easier to join a union.”
Marta Jaramillo, a new immigrant to Canada and a member of the Workers Action Centre told the crowd about her first job in Canada where there was no protection, and where the boss said her complaints would mean she wouldn’t get another job. After she was fired, she made a claim with the Ministry of Labour, which took her side. “But the boss still hasn't paid. Often there are no penalties.”
Socialist hip hop artist Mohammed Ali got the crowd going with his rap about precarious work.
The rally ended with notice that some folks were going inside the government building to present a clock to the ministry, “ because it is time for change!”
While a year ago the provincial NDP refused to support the call for the $14 minimum wage, the growing movement has now pushed the federal NDP to support the $15 minimum wage—with MPs Craig Scott and Peggy Nash attending the downtown and airport rallies, respectively—which can help broaden the campaign.
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If you like this article, register for Rage Against the System, a weekend conference of ideas to change the world, April 24-26 in Toronto. Sessions include “Why is capitalism in crisis,” “Labour and the fight against austerity,” and music with Socialist Hip Hop, MC Mohammad Ali

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