TORONTO, June 16, 2018 -- Just nine days after the Ontario election, thousands flooded the streets outside the Ministry of Labour and marched to Queen’s Park today in support of the $15 minimum wage and fairer labour laws. People came in from Niagara to Ottawa, Brampton to Oshawa, and joined the rally carrying signs that read “WE are the people” “Hands off our $15 minimum wage,” “Hands off our paid sick days,” “Hands off equal pay for equal work.” Some of Ontario’s new labour laws are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2019.
“The people of Ontario expect a $15 minimum wage on January 1, 2019 and you can see from the crowd that I am not alone,” said Yvette LeClair, a Toronto worker. “Like so many people I know, I’ve been juggling two and three jobs, with no benefits for too long. The $14 minimum wage, the right to equal pay for equal work and the paid sick days that came into effect this year are making a big difference, but I am – and millions like me are – anxiously waiting for the increase to $15 and fairer scheduling rules.”
After years of organizing by grassroots organizers and the labour movement, workers in Ontario won important labour law reforms in 2018 with the passage of Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. The Fight for $15 & Fairness Campaign and the Ontario Federation of Labour held the joint rally today to send a message to the incoming government that the majority of Ontarians want and support decent work.
“During the election campaign, we heard on the doorsteps of working people that $15 is critical,” said Pam Frache, the provincial coordinator for Fight for $15 & Fairness. “So if Doug Ford is truly for the people as he claims, if he wants to stand up to the elites, he has to implement the changes our communities fought so hard for. Don’t believe the Big Business lobby. A $15 minimum wage will transfer over $5 billion in corporate profit to workers’ pockets. That’s good for workers, for our communities and for Ontario’s economy because what small businesses need most are customers.”
Co-founder of Canada’s Leap Manifesto Naomi Klein echoed Frache’s statement. “Margaret Thatcher once said: 'The lady is not for turning.' What Doug Ford is seeing today is that in Toronto, the workers are not for turning. Movements are not going to give up on the gains they have won without a fierce fight. If Ford tries to ram his austerity agenda through anyway, his base will see once and for all that he never was on their side.”
While running to be the leader of Progressive Conservative party, premier-designate Doug Ford had campaigned on cancelling the $15 minimum wage and implementing a tax cut instead. But advocates and economists alike have said this will leave workers worse off.
“Ontario’s labour movement wants to be sure one thing is clear to everyone: a $15 minimum wage is a better deal for workers than a tax cut,” said Ontario Federation of Labour President Chris Buckley. “Many minimum wage earners will not make enough money to qualify for Doug Ford's $800 tax cut. But a $15 minimum wage will put almost $2,000 more in workers’ pockets if they work full time. Our government should be lifting people out of poverty by raising the minimum wage, not taking away the pay increase they need to feed their families.”
Leaders from the business community were also at the rally, endorsing a decent work agenda for Ontario. “I am here today to represent the more than 60% of smaller business owners who support a $15 minimum wage. We know that most small businesses already pay more than minimum wage. In fact, it is the large, profitable corporations who rely most on minimum wage labour,” said Anita Agrawal, CEO, of Best Bargains Jewellery (a company listed among Canada’s top 100 women-owned businesses). “It is time to level the playing field for small business by insisting that all workers be paid at least $15 an hour,” she said. “If Doug Ford is concerned about supporting smaller businesses, then he should do something about the massive commercial rent increases that are putting more and more of us out of business.”
The Ontario Federation of Labour represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.ofl.ca.
The Fight for $15 and Fairness is a growing movement of workers committed to fighting for decent work, and includes students, faculty, labour groups, health providers, anti-poverty activists and faith leaders. To learn more, visit: www.15andFairness.org.
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