The press conference officially launched November as a month of action in support of paid sick days for all workers. In addition to garnering significant media interest, this event also drew the attention of the Premier’s Cabinet Office representative as well as a member of the Official Opposition.
If you were tuned into CBC’s As It Happens on Thursday evening, you might have caught the post-press conference interview – one of the many media hits including: Toronto Star, CBC’s Metro Morning, Newstalk 1010, Omni TV, Sing Tao and more!
Under current Ontario law no worker has the legal right to a paid sick day. In fact, 1.6 million Ontarians risk losing their jobs all together when they take a sick day even without pay. As the Ministry of Labour continues its review of employment laws, we have a unique opportunity to demand legislated paid sick days for allworkers. To achieve this objective we’ll be organizing actions throughout the month, but we need your help.
Here is how you can take action:
Ontario’s first legislated cost of living adjustment to the minimum wage takes effect October 1.
With indexation, workers have won an important milestone, but we still need at least $15 an hour. A new leaflet explaining the changes is available here.
“The fact we have a legislated cost of living adjustment is a testament to the pressure brought to bear on our provincial government by union and non-union workers across Ontario,” says Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. “It means that minimum wage earnings will not fall as far behind as they have in the past when the minimum wage could be frozen for years at a time.”
“This 25¢ adjustment is not the same as a wage increase,” says Deena Ladd, coordinator of the Workers’ Action Centre. “It’s a mechanism to prevent workers from falling even further below the poverty line. Whenever the minimum wage is frozen, it amounts to a pay cut for workers.” Between 1995 and 2004, when Ontario’s general minimum wage was frozen, it lost more than 20% of its purchasing power. When it was frozen again between 2010 and 2014, it lost nearly 10% of its purchasing power.
Even at $11.25 an hour, Ontario’s minimum wage leaves a full-time worker almost 20% below the poverty line. The Fight for $15 and Fairness continues to call for a minimum wage that provides full-time workers with income that is at least 10% above the poverty line, as well as changes that would bring fairness to workplaces across the province.
Not since 1976 has Ontario’s minimum wage provided earnings that bring full-time workers above the poverty line, notes a new report published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Today, nearly 30% of Ontario workers earn less than $15 an hour. Read the story by the Toronto Star’s Sara Mojtehedzadeh here.
“All workers, whether they are covered by federal or provincial labour laws, need at least $15 an hour,” says Ryan. “But we also need important legislative changes to make sure that workers have decent hours, fair scheduling, equal pay, seven days of paid sick leave – and the right to form unions to help make this happen.”
You can also include it in an e-bulletin, newsletter or email blast. Here’s some sample text:
Not all employment is regulated by the provincial government. Bank tellers, airline workers, certain call centre workers and many others who work at low-wage jobs in federally regulated sectors need the support of strong federal employment laws. That’s why the Fight for $15 and Fairness is a Federal Election issue, as this video explains: https://youtu.be/fNXJhMnFl0M.”
Two Federal Parties Now Officially Support a $15 Federal Minimum Wage
Ask your candidate:
Does your party believe that a minimum wage should lift full-time workers out of poverty? And if so, does your party support a $15 federal minimum wage that rises enough each year to keep up with cost of living increases?”
Recent Developments in Other Jurisdictions – Let’s Get Inspired!
South of the border, the Governor of New York has promised to implement a $15 minimum wage for all workers, following on the recent victory of fast food workers there.
We can bring these kinds of working alternatives to Canada provincially and federally! Let’s keep the momentum going here.
For updates, check your inbox, visit our website or find us on facebook & twitter. Email us at [email protected].
The Federal Election is now in full swing and we have a chance to make fair wages a key election issue.
The popularity of the Fight for $15 & Fairness campaign in Ontario and similar campaigns in BC, Nova Scotia and elsewhere has pushed at least one federal party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), to promise a $15 minimum wage for all workers regulated by the federal government. We hope more political parties follow suit. Establishing a $15 federal minimum wage would be an important victory in the fight for decent work, and would send a message that workers in every province deserve at least $15 an hour.
All political parties should be serious about raising wages for low-income workers and should use every policy tool available, from implementing a $15 federal minimum wage to restoring and expanding the Fair Wages Act, which stipulates workers be paid fairly as a pre-condition for all contracts with the government of Canada. The federal government should also use its moral authority to call on the provinces to take similar steps. The vast majority of Canadians support calls for a higher minimum wage, and it’s time to let our elected representatives know this.
When candidates request your vote, ask them this:
Does your party believe that a minimum wage should lift full-time workers out of poverty? And if so, does your party support a $15 federal minimum wage that rises enough each year to keep up with price increases?
For more information on why we need a federal $15 minimum wage, download and share our 2-page Federal Election Alert and our 4-page Federal Minimum Wage Backgrounder. Over the next six weeks, let’s keep up the pressure on political parties to make decent work a priority at the federal level — and use that momentum to demand our provincial governments do the same.
Freezies and Fair Wages
In Toronto, the Fight for $15 & Fairness kicked off the month of September with a lively outreach action at the corner of Dufferin and Bloor.
Campaign supporters gathered at one of the busiest subway stations in the city to spread the word about why we need a federal $15 minimum wage and why we need $15 and fairness in Ontario.
Campaigners beat the heat by giving away cool freezies on a hot day — and the kids loved the $15 & Fairness balloons!
The campaigners included workers, anti-poverty activists, students, retirees and more. Mohammad Ali, a local hip hop artist, joined the action, collecting signatures and treating passers-by to an impromtu performance of songs that rally workers to fight for better wages and resist precarious work. Sitting MP Andrew Cash and Toronto City Councillor Mike Layton came by to show their support.
In just over two hours, campaigners gave away several hundred Federal Election Alert flyers and collected over 550 signatures in support of a $15 minimum wage and fair working conditions. Crucially, more than 65 new people signed up to get directly involved in the campaign! (And there are already plans to meet with up with them on September 22.)
Let’s talk decent work on Labour Day!
This Labour Day Weekend is another opportunity to keep the momentum going, as workers across Ontario organize picnics, fairs, barbeques, and marches. Click here to find a local event near you.
If you’re in Toronto this weekend, join the Fight for $15 & Fairness at the Labour Day Parade on Monday, September 7. Meet us between 10:00 am and 12:00 noon at the gates of Trinity Bellwoods park (Queen St. and Strachan Ave.) for tabling and outreach.
Courageous young worker takes on Starbucks
Shannon Mishimagi, a 23-year-old worker, served her former employer, Starbucks Coffee, with a $1-million lawsuit for failing to protect her from violence in the workplace.
Joined by her lawyer, family members, former co-workers, and allies from the Canadian Federation of Students and the Fight for $15 & Fairness, Shannon spoke to the media about the need for better protections for young workers. Workers should have a violence-free and harassment-free environment, yet Ontario employment and labour laws are insufficient to protect workers. Serving the lawsuit will help amplify the voices of other workers who have had similar experiences and help send a message that employers must uphold their obligations under the law.
Email us at [email protected].
So popular is the notion of a $15 minimum wage that the matter is now a key issue in the federal election.
Tellingly, opponents of a federal $15 minimum wage are not discussing whether low-income workers deserve a raise. Nor are they debating the merits of $15 an hour. Instead, they are trying to focus the debate on who’s going to get it.
For proponents of a $15 minimum wage, this in itself is a victory. It shows that a $15 minimum wage has become such a common-sense notion that not many politicians are confident to tell voters that low-income workers don’t deserve to earn wages that bring them above the poverty line.
Of course, it is true the federal government can only make laws that apply to federally regulated workers. This isn’t the choice of any political party. This is the reality of Canada’s legal system. And it’s a reality that may be disappointing for the millions of us across Canada who earn less than $15 an hour and whose hourly income falls well below the poverty line, even when we work full-time.
But if a political party genuinely cares about raising the wages of low-income workers then it is their responsibility to use every available policy lever at their disposal from establishing a decent federal minimum wage to restoring the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act.
This is precisely why a $15 federal minimum wage is not insignificant, as some have claimed. In fact, achieving such a standard would be a crucial step toward winning a $15 minimum wage for every worker, in every province in Canada.
First, a $15 federal minimum wage would directly improve the wages of over 135,000 federally regulated workers who earn less than $15 an hour. Such workers include bank tellers who earn poverty-level wages (the average wage of bank tellers is about $13.80), while banks make billions in profit year after year. Such workers would also include airline workers, transportation workers, railway workers and many other trans-Canada employees where workers are responsible for the health and safety of passengers and communities and for the wellbeing of the environment and natural resources. Such workers will have more disposable income and, as customers, will help stimulate economic activity that will in turn create more jobs.
Second, raising wages for low-income workers in one sector of the economy helps raise wages in other sectors. When low-income workers have better employment opportunities, they may leave one low-wage job for another that pays higher wages. Employers may then choose to pay higher wages in order to keep their employees. In this way, a $15 federal minimum wage will indirectly help thousands of other workers including those already earning $15 hourly.
Third, federally regulated workers comprise a greater proportion of the population in some provinces than in others, which means the effects elaborated above will have an even greater, positive impact on the provincial economy.
Perhaps most importantly, a government elected on a platform of enacting a $15 minimum wage federally will reflect a consensus among voters across Canada and Quebec that workers deserve at least $15 an hour. Such a consensus will make it easier for voters to persuade provincial governments to implement a $15 minimum wage in their respective province.
The minimum wage debate is a litmus test for a political party’s commitment to decent work, whether we are talking about banks, pipeline companies, or telecommunications firms. In this context, the attempt to discredit the $15 federal minimum wage proposal by railing against the constitutional arrangements of Canada (over which no political party has control) is clearly a red herring.
The questions voters must ask their local candidates on the doorstep are these:
“Does your party believe that the minimum wage should generate income that lifts a full-time worker out of poverty? And if so, does your party support a $15 federal minimum wage that is annually indexed to inflation?”
Voters already know that the minimum wage is a federal election issue. It’s time to let the candidates know this, too.
This opinion piece was originally published by the Workers’ Action Centre.
We’ve been talking a lot lately about the Ontario government’s review of provincial labour laws, the Changing Workplaces Review (CWR). The review is an opportunity to make key changes to the Employment Standards Act that could better protect workers and push back against precarious and low-wage jobs. We have been organizing across the province to make sure these changes happen, including bringing in measures to promote more full-time permanent work, fair scheduling practices, access to paid sick days, and eliminating the wage gap between part-time, temporary, and full-time work. (See our full set of campaign demands here.)
All of these demands could help address another major workplace inequality in Ontario: the gender wage gap. This week, the Fight for $15 & Fairness wrote about the links between decent jobs and pay equity: “Because women, racialized workers, and disabled workers face systemic barriers within the labour market they are more likely to work in low wage jobs. And because women continue to shoulder more of the burden for caregiving, women are more likely to work part-time while fulfilling their caring responsibilities. In the absence of a high quality, public, and universally accessible caregiving system and other social supports, women’s choices in the labour market will continue to be limited.”
In addition to reviewing the province’s labour laws, the Ontario government is also doing consultations on the gender wage gap. We know that decent jobs are a pay equity issue, and that the time to act is now.
Tell the government that we need decent jobs in Ontario. Email Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn, or tweet him @OntMinLabour @MPPKevinFlynn. Tell him it’s time for #15andfairness.
The Fight for $15 & Fairness has been busy this week! In Cambridge last night, the Social Planning Council of Cambridge & North Dumpfries and the House of Friendship organized a forum on employment standards and decent work. Over 60 people turned out to hear from workers in the community and their experiences of bad jobs. David talked about the reality of low pay and poor working conditions for contract workers at colleges, and speakers from the Waterloo Region Community Legal Services and from the Workers’ Action Centre talked about the problems with the law and the need to organize. Marjorie talked about the need for paid sick days: because she didn’t have any at her minimum wage job, she had to go to work when she was sick with pneumonia, and lost pay when she had to miss work because of a broken ankle. “They are taking away things that our grandparents fought for,” Marjorie said. “We have become complacent. We have to be the ones that stand up!” Read a great opinion piece on the need for #15andfairness written by one of the organizers of last night’s event.
Meanwhile, a public consultation took place yesterday in Sudbury for the government’s Changing Workplaces Review (CWR). Speakers from Laurentian University, the Sudbury & District Labour Council, the Sudbury Medical Officer of Health, and the Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre (SWEAC) gave powerful testimony. They talked about the need for more regulation of the temporary staffing industry, higher wages, making it easier for workers to unionize, the need for paid sick days and better scheduling, and for all workers – full time, part time, or temporary – to get equal pay and working conditions. Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, the Sudbury Medical Officer of Health, talked about cases she has seen of workers without paid sick days going to work and infecting others, or single parents losing wages to stay home and take care of sick children. “The health-promoting or health-damaging nature of workplaces impacts all workers, their families, neighbourhoods, communities and societies,” she said. Read more about the Sudbury Consultation here.
Finally, we’ve told you about the major wins that happened in the US this week, with workers in LA County, at the University of California, and in the fast-food sector in New York State winning $15 minimum wages. The New York Times editorial board came out in support of the $15 fast food minimum wage and explained the impact of this victory on future organizing: “The new fast-food wage in New York will reinforce the notion that $15 an hour is a minimally decent wage, not a symbol or an extravagance…low pay dampens economic growth, worsens inequality and forces taxpayers to pick up the tab for public assistance to workers whose employers do not pay enough to get by.”
You can join the fight. Tell the government that it’s time for #15andfairness now. Email Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn, or tweet him @OntMinLabour @MPPKevinFlynn. Ask your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbours to do the same. Get involved in a Fight for $15 & Fairness event near you, or organize one yourself.
Major gains made in the US Fight for $15: LA County, University of California, and NY state fast food workers win a $15 minimum wage!
This week has seen a string of victories for the Fight for $15 in the US! The New York Wage Board recommended a $15 minimum wage for all fast-food workers in the state. The wage increase would take place over the next few years, increasing faster in the city of New York to account for the higher cost of living. The recommendation is expected to be approved and put into effect by the state’s Labor Commissioner.
“The $15 wage would represent a raise of more than 70 percent for workers earning the state’s current minimum wage of $8.75 an hour. Advocates for low-wage workers said they believed the mandate would quickly spur raises for employees in other industries across the state, and a jubilant [New York state Governor] Mr. Cuomo predicted that other states would follow his lead.” Read more about the decision here.
On the west coast, hundreds of thousands of workers also won a $15 minimum wage this week. The Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County, the country’s largest local government, voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 for all its unincorporated cities. The decision follows the City of Los Angeles, which approved a $15 minimum wage in June of this year. The increase raises the minimum wage in the county by more than 60%, and will be fully in effect by 2021. “Backers hope the combined actions by California’s two largest local governments reach a political tipping point and help accelerate the adoption of similar policies not just in the region, but across the nation.” Read more about the LA County decision here.
The University of California also approved a $15 minimum wage for all its hourly and contract workers this week. The University is the state’s 3rd largest employer, with 10 campuses across California, and is the country’s first public university to make such a move – setting an important precedent for other employers and universities to do the same. Read more about the University’s decision here.
And finally, Senators in the Congressional Progressive Caucus this week introduced a new bill to increase the Federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. It’s the largest proposed increase to the Federal minimum wage yet. Although there is no guarantee that the bill will receive the political support to move ahead, it will still have an impact – showing that a well-organized grassroots workers’ movement has succeeded in putting the demand for for fair wages front and centre in US politics.
As the momentum builds in the US, we continue to organize to build that momentum in Canada and in Ontario too. You can join us – tell the government that it’s time for #15andfairness now. Email Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn, or tweet him @OntMinLabour @MPPKevinFlynn. Ask your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbours to do the same.
Last week, Unifor Local 414, the union representing 4,000 workers at Metro grocery stores in the Greater Toronto Area, negotiated a collective agreement that pushes back on erratic scheduling and insufficient hours for part-time workers. Read about the agreement here. The agreement guarantees minimum hours for workers and requires that workers get their schedules 5 days in advance – two things that Ontario’s Employment Standards Act doesn’t do. As the Ontario government reviews the province’s labour laws for both unionized and non-unionized workers, now is the time to raise the floor of minimum standards for all workers. Workers need laws that create decent work, including a $15 minimum wage, sufficient hours, schedules at least two weeks in advance, and more full-time work. Read about our demands for Decent Hours for Decent Incomes here.
Tell the government why you think workers in Ontario need better laws. Email Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn, or tweet him @OntMinLabour @MPPKevinFlynn. Tell him it’s #time4decentwork and #15andfairness in Ontario, and ask your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbours to do the same.
Two additional public consultations announced for the Changing Workplaces Review (CWR)
The Ministry of Labour recently announced that two new cities and dates will be added to the public consultations taking place across the province as part of the government’s labour law review. Public consultations will now also be held in St. Catharines on July 22 and Kingston on July 29. Information on how to participate in the consultations is available on the Ministry of Labour’s website.
Do you want to get involved in the Fight for $15 & Fairness? Here are a few upcoming events happening across the province.
Sudbury, July 23
The Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre (SWEAC) and its allies are preparing to make presentations at the Public Consultation for the CWR in Sudbury on July 23. They are asking for members of the public to pack the gallery to show support. Please contact Nicole at 705-470-3323 or [email protected] to confirm your attendance and get a campaign placard.
Thursday July 23, 11:30am-3:00pm (SWEAC will be presenting at 2pm)
Quality Inn & Conference Centre, 390 Elgin St. South
Cambridge, July 23
The Social Planning Council of Cambridge & North Dumpfries and House of Friendship are hosting an Employment Standards Community Forum, featuring speakers from Waterloo Region Community Legal Services and the Workers’ Action Centre. Come share your experiences and hear about how workers are organizing for decent work!
Thursday July 23, 7pm-9pm
Calvary Pentecostal Assembly
127 Hespeler Road
Toronto, August 4
If you live in the Toronto area and want to get involved in the Fight for $15 & Fairness, come to our next volunteers meeting! Please RSVP to [email protected].
Tuesday August 4
Refreshments at 5:30pm, meeting at 6pm
Workers’ Action Centre
720 Spadina Ave., Suite 223
Stay tuned about more upcoming events: check out our Take Action page and sign up for regular email updates.
Ontarians call in to talk about decent work and the labour law review
On July 2, Deena Ladd from the Workers’ Action Centre was on CBC radio’s Ontario Today phone-in show to talk about decent work and how the government’s labour law review could help us get there. Workers and concerned individuals from across Ontario phoned in to share their stories of bad jobs, and talk about what they think needs to change. The discussion really showed that people across Ontario are concerned about the state of jobs in this province, and that we need $15 and Fairness. If you missed it live, you can listen to the discussion here, What’s wrong with Ontario’s employment standards legislation.
Didn’t get a chance to call in? Let the government know what you think about jobs in Ontario and how the laws need to change. Email Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn, or tweet him @OntMinLabour @MPPKevinFlynn. Tell him it’s #time4decentwork and #15andfairness in Ontario, and ask your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbours to do the same.
March for Jobs, Justice, & the Climate
On July 5, the Fight for $15 & Fairness joined the March for Jobs, Justice, & the Climate.
We were joined by thousands of other labour, community, indigenous, and environmental activists as we took to the streets of Toronto to demand that a clean-energy future be built on justice and good jobs.
We demonstrated solidarity by coming together to stand up for an important cause that impacts us all #jobsjusticeclimate
Do you want to get involved in the Fight for $15 & Fairness? If you live in the Toronto area, come out to our first volunteers meeting to find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved.
July 14 5:30pm
Access Point on Danforth, 3079 Danforth Ave. (at Victoria Park Ave.)
Refreshments will be available at 5:30pm, meeting begins at 6pm
Please RSVP to: [email protected]