rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Grassroots organizing pays off for Ontario workers

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Image: raisetheminimumwage.ca

The power of grassroots organizing was demonstrated yesterday when the Ontario government announced improved protection for marginalized workers. The proposed changes to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) will make it easier for workers to access their rights when they have been violated; and will make it harder for employers to exploit these workers. The changes will also provide greater protection for migrant workers in Ontario. The Workers' Action Centre and Migrant Workers' Alliance for Change have worked tirelessly to bring these legislative changes about.

Employment standards establish a minimum floor so that workers with the least ability to negotiate fair wages and working conditions are protected from having to endure working conditions that we collectively decide are unacceptable. These include: minimum wages, hours of work and payment for holidays and over time. Recent immigrants and racialized workers are more likely to have these rights violated. And, recent research shows that they are widespread. The proposed changes to the ESA will make it easier for people whose rights have been violated to access enforcement and will take steps to modernize the ESA by improving protection for the increasing numbers of people who work for temp agencies.

There is also enhanced protection for migrant workers. The rapid expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has had a negative impact on migrant workers and on the labour market as a whole.  Workers with status have to compete for jobs with those without status or effective rights to enforce them. This moves wages and working conditions toward the lowest common denominator. The proposed legislation will take steps to address this.

An increasing share of Ontario workers are paid minimum wage, and we know that this work is not distributed equally. Women, racialized workers and recent immigrants are more likely to be working at minimum wage and in the kinds of jobs that are likely to include rights violations. This legislation will have a positive impact on these workers, decreasing inequality across gender, racialized groups and immigration status.

There is a large literature that describes the impact of employment conditions on health outcomes. Pathways include the health impacts of income, social inclusion and employment conditions. The Whitehall study first described the impact of workplace relationships on health outcomes; Canadian research on precarious work sheds  light on the health impact of precarious work arrangements. We have recent data on the negative impact of working poverty on health.

These proposed changes in legislation will increase incomes and increase the ability of marginalized workers to enforce their rights. Reducing inequality in this way will improve the health of Ontarians.  These changes are an important step in addressing labour market inequality. They need to be accompanied by an increase in the minimum wage and modernizing of the Labour Relations Act to provide more marginalized workers with a fair chance to join a union.

Image: raisetheminimumwage.ca

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.