Keep Fighting for $15 and Fairness

By: Evan Johnson (Co-Chief Steward)

Since its launch in spring 2015, the Fight for $15 and Fairness has been building a broad and vibrant campaign that unites union and non-union workers together in a common struggle. It’s a struggle that seeks to improve working conditions for all, regardless of what industry you work in, and regardless of whether you work part-time, full-time, or on contract.

The opening for this campaign came when the Ontario government announced that they were reviewing two key pieces of legislation — the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and the Ontario Labour Relations Act (OLRA) — under the banner of the Changing Workplaces Review. Two advisors were appointed and tasked with touring the province for a series of public consultations.

Since then, hundreds of volunteers have been collecting signatures on petitions, meeting with their MPPs, building chapters in their communities, and equipping a new generation of activists with the tools they need to bring people together and organize for change.

On October 1st, thousands descended on Queen’s Park for the “Rally for Decent Work,” organized by the Workers’ Action Centre and the Ontario Federation of Labour. CUPE 1281 executive members joined with other labour and student unions, community and faith organizations, to show the extent of the support for $15 and Fairness’ campaign demands.

As we approach 2017, the campaign is entering a pivotal moment.

Back in July, the Ontario government’s special advisors released their long-anticipated Changing Workplace Review Interim Report, which summarizes the findings from their public consultations. The report offers some commentary on the current state of work, and summarizes what they heard from the over 200 submissions that were made by workers and labour activists from across Ontario.

The next step will be for the special advisors to release a final report, which will contain a set of concrete recommendations to the Ontario government. However, the substance of their recommendations have yet to be determined, and it’s important that we keep the pressure up to ensure that the recommendations reflect the interest of workers rather than big business.

That’s why we must continue to build momentum. We need to demonstrate the strength of our movement, and make it clear to the Premier and her advisors that not only does the public stand behind our campaign’s demands, but that union and non-union workers will not be divided by any scraps that may be thrown from the government’s table.

CUPE 1281 has been a strong supporter of the campaign since the beginning. At our October 2015 Steward’s Council meeting, we passed a motion re-affirming our support and involvement in the $15 and Fairness Campaign.

And as members of CUPE 1281, we have a key role to play. By virtue of our workplaces, many of us have one foot in our union and one foot in a variety of other social justice communities. This puts us in the unique position of being able to bridge the importance of union-specific issues to non-union members, and non-union issues to union members.

The big rally has come and gone and now we are ready to keep petitioning, building support for the campaign in our communities and campuses, and acting in solidarity with those workers who are taking up the campaign in their bargaining demands and walking the picket lines for $15 an hour. The least workers deserve is fairness, and this campaign can be the seed for a revitalized workers’ movement that can begin to push for much more.

This article was published in the November 2016 edition of the CUPE 1281 newsletter. Click here for a PDF of the full newsletter or here to browse the website for other articles in the newsletter.