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The bosses lie. Ontario wants $15 and Fairness

Peter Hogarth

August 23, 2018

The Fight for $15 and Fairness has worked hard to mobilize working class people across Ontario to fight for decent work. Along the way, those active in the campaign have had to fight against claims that $15/hr would never happen, that our demands were too pie in the sky (or not revolutionary enough), that the minimum wage was outside the scope of the Changing Workplaces Review, or that union members needed their own separate campaign to mobilize their members. Through determined organizing and province-wide mobilizations that a beleaguered Liberal Party could not ignore, the campaign won significant changes to Ontario’s labour laws in Bill 148—including a $14 minimum wage this year, scheduled to rise to $15/hr next year.

Since the passing of Bill 148, $15 and Fairness activists have had to do hand-to-hand combat to defend their victory from aggressive mobilization by the capitalist class in Ontario and their spokespeople. The Toronto Sun, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and critics in the Conservative, Liberal and even NDP parties have cast doubt and sown fear in the decent work changes.

The business community predicted massive job losses. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario, TD Bank and the Fraser Institute, all claimed that raising the minimum wage would be a disaster for the Ontario economy, predicting between 50,000 and 185,000 lost jobs. But as David Bush reported at  “the business lobby’s grim job loss predictions have been demolished by reality. Over the last 12 months Ontario has added over 182,000 jobs, accounting for some 74 percent of all job growth in the country during that same period. Since February, a month after the minimum wage increased by over 20 percent, over 130,000 jobs have been added. The unemployment rate has hit an 18-year low.” To no one’s surprise, these facts have not been dominating headlines like the round-the-clock fear mongering featured prominently in so many media outlets.

One of the big areas where this will be the case is the equal pay changes to the Employment Standard Act under Bill 148. As of April 1, 2018, employers are required to offer the same rate of pay to: “part-time, contract, casual, temporary and seasonal employees who are doing substantially the same work in the workplaces as their full-time/permanent counterparts [and] Temporary agency workers who are doing the substantially the same work, in the same workplaces as directly-hired employees of the client company.” This will have huge effect from temp workers in warehouses to faculty on college and university campuses and is likely to be a key battleground.

Despite the all-out assault by the capitalist class, 66 percent of Canadians support a $15 minimum wage. To defend and expand the gains made in Bill 148 the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign will have to stick with the methods that achieved substantial gains in the first place: organizing, getting out into street corners, workplace lunchrooms, campuses, places of worship, door-knocking, phone banking, organizing community members to visit MPP offices and fighting tooth and nail for positive media coverage.

Countering the bosses’ lies requires us to keep the pressure up and use every available avenue to organize and mobilize workers. Our job is to turn the passive support for a $15 minimum wage and decent work into the broadest and most active working class movement possible. This will get a boost when the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign leads the Toronto labour day parade on Monday September 3, 9am at University and Dundas.

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