If we have learned anything from the COVID-19 crisis so far it is that low-wage, unstable jobs anywhere are a threat to public health everywhere. The movement for decent work has never been more important if we are to protect ourselves and our communities.
With every step politicians take to allow more businesses to open come new reports tracing COVID-19 hot spots to workplaces notorious for precarious employment, from hardware stores to nail salons and from long-term care homes to greenhouses.
It’s obvious we need real laws, with real teeth, and real enforcement, so that all workers can take action to protect themselves and their communities. This is why we continue to fight for:
- Full immigration status for all
- Employer-paid sick days for safer workplaces
- CERB and the right to refuse unsafe work
Full immigration status for all
Since our June 14 actions, another migrant worker, Juan Lopez Chaparro, has died from COVID-19. Earlier in June, Bonifacio Eugenio Romero and Rogelio Muñoz Santos, both died after contracting COVID-19.
There are now more than 800 COVID-19 cases among migrant farm workers. And in a shocking display of cruelty, the Ontario government has decided that those who test positive for COVID-19 - but who don’t show symptoms - should continue to work. Given the conditions on Ontario farms and greenhouses, this will be a death sentence. It shows the government is more concerned with profit making than with our health and safety.
This is happening because workers do not have full immigration status.
Without full rights, workers who organize for safe and decent work continue to be at risk of deportation. This makes it much more difficult for workers to protect themselves or speak out about dangerous working and living conditions.
Not only is deportation a direct threat to those essential workers, it is a direct threat to our movement by depriving us of strong leaders whose help we need to win better workplace protections for everyone.
That’s why real health and safety for all of us means ending two-tiered immigration status.
Here are three ways you can make a difference right now:
- Call the Prime Minister and your Member of Parliament now. Visit: https://migrantrights.ca/callforstatus/
- Join this Saturday's Cross-Country Day of Action: https://migrantrights.ca/july4/. If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area, join us at 3:00 pm for a socially-distanced rally outside the constituency office of Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Marco Mendocino at 511 Lawrence Avenue West (click here for the Toronto rally details).
- Print and post these beautiful posters (download here) in your neighbourhood or around your local Member of Parliament office, and post a selfie.
Employer-paid sick days for safer workplaces
“Companies should be required to provide paid sick leave to every worker as a standard cost of doing business, and they certainly should be required to do so in the midst of a pandemic.” - New York Times editorial, March 14, 2020.
New York State is the latest jurisdiction to permanently implement employer-paid sick leave laws in addition to its earlier decision to legislate two weeks of employer-paid sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet in Canada, no government federally or provincially has stepped up to protect workers by legislating an adequate number of permanent, paid sick days for all.
As it stands, about half of all workers across the country DO NOT have any paid sick days.
The majority of people who are denied paid sick days are workers on the frontlines, least able to work from home, with the lowest wages and benefits, and with little job security.
Black workers are also less likely to have paid sick days, as are newcomers and other racialized workers. Fighting for paid sick days is a matter of racial justice.
Paid sick days are essential for workers with disabilities as well. And of course those in the caring professions from health care to child- and elder-care are very often racialized, newcomer women whose labour is so essential.
The evidence is overwhelming that employer paid sick days are not simply another cost to business. In addition to saving lives, paid sick days are an essential investment that saves money for individual businesses and the public purse. How is this possible? Reduced contagion keeps businesses operating and makes communities healthier, while reducing health care costs for everyone.
That’s why more and more people are speaking out for paid sick days, sign up now to join the action. Across the country, from July 18 to 21, workers are taking action by:
- Talking to their friends, neighbours and co-workers;
- Visiting their elected provincial representatives;
- Decorating their workplaces and neighbourhoods to remind everyone that paid sick days are an essential protection. To download and print the beautiful posters, click here: https://www.15andfairness.org/resources
CERB and the right to refuse unsafe work
In theory, workers in Ontario have job-protected leave during the pandemic if they have to refuse work because of COVID-19 related issues.
But without adequate income support, this job-protection means nothing for workers.
That’s why the Canadian Emergency Response Benefits (CERB) continue to be so essential. Unfortunately, these benefits are set to start running out in August. Without income support, too many of us will have no other choice than to go back into unsafe work putting ourselves and our families at risk.
That’s another reason it is so urgent that we keep fighting to ensure CERB will be there for as long as workers need it. We know that it will take months - even years - for the economy to come back into full capacity. Many workers will wait months before they can return to their occupation. Others will be returning to jobs with fewer hours or on reduced shifts. We need to ensure CERB continues to play the stabilizing role for workers and for the economy.
For these and other reasons, the Workers’ Action Centre and the Fight for $15 and Fairness are hosting an Emergency Meeting on Monday, July 20 at 2:00 pm, EDT to bring together workers who want to fight to extend this crucial income support. To register, click here. To share on Facebook, click here.
Join our next organizing meeting
We need to expand our networks and build capacity to fight in every neighbourhood and in every workplace. That’s why along with the Ontario Federation of Labour, we are hosting online organizing meetings every four weeks: Tuesday, July 21 and Tuesday, August 18 at 7:00 pm. We urge you to join us and to bring a friend. To register For Tuesday, July 21, click here. You can join online or dial-in (please sign up to receive log-in details). And to spread the word on Facebook, click here.