This week in labour: Lessons in broad-based organizing

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Monday, June 15th marked the 25th anniversary of the Justice for Janitors Day campaign.

Initiated by SEIU in Los Angeles, Justice for Janitors is both a union drive and movement that has spread across the US and Canada.

By incorporating unions and community groups to link workers’ rights to other social justice issues like immigration reform, the “J4J” campaign piloted a model of organizing that is being replicated by fast food workers and other broad-based campaigns, like Ontario’s fight for 15 and fairness.  

This weekend, Ottawa janitors, members of SEIU Local 2, are launching their own ‘J4J’ campaign to demand a living wage and medical benefit from their employer.

With "One Industry, One Union, One Contract" serving as both a campaign slogan and an organizing strategy, the J4J approach offers a lot of lessons for supporting a growing workforce of precarious workers.

And with that, here is this week's labour roundup!

  • In Ontario, precarious workers will have the opportunity to voice their concerns in a series of public consultations held by the Ministry of Labour. The goal of these Changing Workplace Review hearings is to help lawmakers determine what changes need to be made to the Employment Standards Act to better protect workers in 'non-standard' jobs.
  • The Review is clearly needed. In a recent inspection blitz, the Ontario Ministry of Labour found that only 14 of the 50 temporary agencies inspected were completely compliant with the Employment Standards Act, while the remaining 70 per cent of employers were found to be in violation of the province’s employment laws.
  • One presenter at the hearings was Angel Reyes, a refugee who was hired at a recycling plant through a temporary employment agency. When Angel spoke out about his working conditions to the Toronto Star, he was promptly fired.
  • At Canada Post, outsourced workers are also still struggling for their rights.  Several workers who had been hired through a temporary agency to work at processing plants in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto have been terminated arbitrarily. In November 2014, these workers ratified their first collective agreement and became members of CUPW. It was the first time that the union had managed to organize temp agency workers. But in a move that the union is calling blatant union busting, Canada Post has pulled the rug out from under these members by tendering the contract to another placement agency. 
  • Unifor –- the union formed through the amalgamation of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) –- has released its policy proposal for a much-needed national strategy for the auto industry.
  • Medical transport drivers in Richmond B.C., have won a first contract. After a series of rotating job actions and a round of mediation, the 115 members of CUPE 873-03 and SN Transport have agreed to terms for a tentative agreement.

Ella Bedard is's labour intern and an associate editor at GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine. She has written about labour issues for 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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