From Thunder Bay to Victoria, major protests will take place in Canada tomorrow as part of global Day of Action to demand higher minimum wages and decent working conditions.
Scheduled for April 15 (4/15), the date echoes the demand of protesters in the United States and across Canada for a $15 minimum wage.
Actions will take place across British Columbia and Ontario. The B.C. Federation of Labour has launched its own Fight for $15 Campaign, and in Ontario more than a dozen simultaneous actions will take place, including rallies outside of several McDonald's restaurants and the McDonald's Canada headquarters in Toronto.
"We are supporting a global-wide action," said President of SEIU Local 1 Sharleen Stewart, "There are supposed to be over 20 countries who are participating in this across the world."
Initiated in New York City in 2012, the Fight for $15 campaign has expanded to include food cashiers and cooks, retail employees, child-care workers, adjunct professors, home-care providers, and airport workers from across the United States.
"It started with fast-food workers," explained Stewart, "and it evolved to include other low-wage earners, particularly hom-ecare workers, who we represent."
Tomorrow, work stoppages and protests will take place in over 100 U.S. cities to demand $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.
"We realized ourselves that there's still a lot of what people consider full-time professions that are making less than $15 an hour here too," said Stewart.
A coalition of over 40 organizations, trade unions, and individuals will also be launching the Fight for Fairness and $15 campaign, with a rally outside the Ontario Ministry of Labour headquarters, and actions across Ontario.
"The demands really are going to be centered around not just $15 minimum wage, but around other questions of decent work," explained Workers Action Centre organizer Karen Cocq.
While SEIU has been responsible for organizing the McDonald's protests, Stewart says that her union is working in coalition with the Fight for Fairness and $15 organizers to tackle different elements of the same systemic problem.
"We are focusing on the corporations," said Stewart, "It's about sharing the profits."
The Fight for Fairness and $15 rally will draw attention to badly needed legislative changes.
"The Employment Standards Act is full of loopholes and exemptions," explained Cocq, "Ontario is the only province that still has a lower student minimum wage. We need to get rid of all of these exemptions around the minimum wage, and we have a series of other demands around decent work; fair scheduling, more full-time work, and we're calling for a minimum of seven paid sick days a year."
Cocq says that the campaign will also focus on increasing respect at work through better enforcement of labour and safety standards, protecting workers from unjust reprisals and dismissals, and making it easier for workers to join a union.
"This is a really good time because, partly, there is a political movement building around these issues, but also because the Ontario government is launching the Employment Standards and Labour Relations review," said Cocq. "They are actually looking at how to amend the laws to reflect the changing nature of work. It's really a great time to build on the momentum that the minimum wage campaign has generated and take it up a next level."
Ella Bedard is rabble.ca's labour intern and an associate editor at GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine. She has written about labour issues for Dominion.ca and the Halifax Media Co-op and is the co-producer of the radio documentary The Amelie: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Story of the 1987 Boat People.
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