Posts Tagged ‘ labour ’

Raise the Minimum Wage Education and Mobilization Event – Report Back

On Tuesday September 24th Sonia Singh of Toronto’s Workers Action Centre facilitated an engaging skill building workshop on the Province-wide Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage.  Sonia is a dynamic presenter and equipped participants with a range of methods and facts to demonstrate the vital need for an increase, as well as the economic sense of an increase.

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Held at the Commons Cafe in Kitchener the event was also an opportunity to further solidify relationships and roles within the rapidly growing local coalition of the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage.  The well attended event was a huge boost of energy for all involved.  Thank you to all who attended as individuals, organizational reps, labour reps and political office reps!

Events are held across the Province on the 14th of each month.  We in the Tri-Cities are now more prepared and determined than ever to achieve the objectives of this campaign.  We are so pleased to be part of such an inspiring campaign and always look forward to hearing about the creative and successful actions taken by communities across the Province on the 14th of each month!

Together we can win an increase in the minimum wage in Ontario.

For more information visit:  raisetheminimumwage.ca

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More Blatant Disregard for Workers

Members of Poverty Makes Us Sick are involved with the Tri-Cities Zellers Employee Solidarity Coalition (TCZESC). Please link to the TCZESC by clicking here.

In Kitchener/Waterloo, on Wednesday June 6th, two Zellers Stores closed forever.  The Stanley Park Mall and Bridgeport Plaza locations will reopen as Wal-mart.  None of the front line workers have been offered jobs*, or offered any preference for re-hire, by Wal-mart.  The employees are welcome to apply like anyone else.  We hope that their skills and experience will be valued.

We offer our love and support to all those who have lost their jobs.

Zellers is owned by HBC. Tiffany Bourre, HBC’s external communications manager says that “an average [Zellers] location has 100 employees…”. A few Zellers employees from these two locations have received transfers to other Zellers locations, but this is rare and most folks are losing their jobs.  According to Bourre’s statement, up to 500 people from our community may lose their jobs if Target decides to claim its contractual option on all five Zellers stores in the Tri-Cities.  In addition to the two stores that closed today, two others are scheduled to close in 2013. There is no official word on the 5th store yet.

Unemployment is devastating even in a healthy job market, but during this time of high unemployment, recession and cuts to vital social services, the loss of these jobs will prove especially challenging.

Tiffany Bourre also says that the employees affected will be offered what she termed “career transition and support services”. Bourré said, an online program will offer tips on resume writing, interview skills and professional development.  We call this bullshit.  We are happy if these resources helped folks right resumes (God knows we forget how!), but it’s insulting to the workers that this fluff is even named as support.  It’s insulting to us all that corporations think that they fool us so easily and find us so docile!

PMUS has typically acted locally with a focus on provincial policies affecting poverty.  While we have always maintained an analysis that is globally-minded, we are now expanding our work to include the necessary fights at the federal level, such as the detrimental changes being proposed to the Employment Insurance (EI) system and the despicable workfare initiatives aimed at indigenous people living on reserve.

Not all Zellers employees are even eligible for EI.  Some of the laid off employees will likely require access to Ontario Works (OW). As PMUS and its allies have been arguing for years, the inhumanely low, sub-poverty rates paid out by OW are not enough to buy healthy food, pay hydro and afford rent or mortgage.  No one should have to survive on these inadequate rates.

The TCZESC hopes to see employment maintained for those workers who seek it and seeks to foster worker-led mobilization.

Jobs and respect for those who have worked hard for Zellers and our community!

Visit the TCZESC blog at zellersemployeesolidaritycoalitiontricities.wordpress.com, email tczesc@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/events/373156966066951/ for more information.

*Originally the available information suggested that no employees would be maintaining employment with Walmart or Target without re-applying, but we have seen evidence in the conduct of some, at one of the locations, to suggest that they may have a greater sense of allegiance to Walmart than to their current employees.  That is, we were aggressively removed from the store by one Zellers employee on his second last day of work, because a really wealthy-looking guy in a fancy suit told him to throw us out as we were distributing invitations to an info night for laid-off employees. The guy who threw us out had some sort of middle management vibe. He acted aloof when asked if he was also losing his job.  He refused to answer. At the other location that was also closing we were treated well, like a human being ought to be treated.

Mayday

Mayday Marchers leaving Victoria park. photo: dk, http://yfrog.com/odhwmcej

Last week, Poverty Makes Us Sick (PMUS) took part in May Day celebrations in Kitchener and it was wonderful! From what we can gather, this was Kitchener’s first community mobilization to observe May Day since 2006. May Day, or International Workers’ Day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Workers%27_Day) is celebrated all over the planet. Our community offered a kid-friendly space for a majority of the day’s events as we came together to reclaim public space and share our collective desire for a better world – one of dignity and justice for all!

The day began with a creative resistance festival at Victoria Park. There was a delicious potluck spread, including black cupcakes with wicks or fuses (more on that later). There was hula-hoop, poi, and a stereo kicking out the jams. Richard Garvey led a radical choir sing-along. Local folks had printed up a zine that served as the day’s program that included a number of traditional and locally-penned protest anthems. We sang those songs as a healing, community-building exercise and also warmed up for singing those songs during our march and rally. PMUS facilitated a children’s activity of planting organic seeds in biodegradable planters. We talked about sustainability, poverty, access to healthy food, sharing and labour as we had fun planting with the youngsters (and some interested grown-ups too). Julian Ichim led a ‘know your rights workshop’ discussing possible scenarios related to interactions with police.

Next, participants gathered for a vigil, commemorating workers from our own region who have died or been injured on the job in the past year. PMUS facilitated the memorial, delivering a speech and reading the names of some of the workers who have died, including John Luis Cantunto (killed in a construction accident in Kitchener) and the 10 temporary foreign workers from Peru (and the driver from London, ON) who died in a van accident on their way to work near Stratford. A member of the local Common Cause chapter read more names and reminded us of the Haymarket massacre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haymarket_affair. A man stepped forward to remember his father who had passed away. Then we shared a moment of silence. It was important to centre ourselves before we marched.

Then we marched!! We marched for over 3.5 km, basically making our way throughout the entire the downtown core. A van followed along for accessibility. We marched through an East End neighbourhood, largely populated by the working poor—that is in the early stages of gentrification. Residents greeted us, joined in, and wished us well. Throughout the march we were escorted by about 15 cops on bicycles, horses and in a van. Participants spoke against this presence within a framework of class and capital. Three Christians used large wooden crosses to box in the mounted police as a protective measure for march participants. At a previous rally on March 31st, the police had deliberately run the horses into a group of protestors. The mounted police then kept a greater distance. Speeches were given at a subsidized housing complex and local musician Richard Garvey performed his song “The Walls Will All Fall Down” in front of the $766 million Mega Courthouse currently under construction. A local activist later gave an excellent speech in front of one of the many payday loan agencies lining Kitchener’s downtown, denouncing this destructive local form of disaster capitalism. Posters were taped to the stores windows. A PMUS member spoke in front of a newer cupcake shop across the street from the local community soup kitchen, St. John’s Kitchen, as the rest of the march held the intersection. The crowd learned that trendy cupcake shops serve as clear markers of gentrification, catering to newly arrived students, professionals and urban elites and encroaching on traditional downtown communities. There was a plan to enter a TD bank and cause disruption, but they had evidently decided to close down early for the day! That made things easy and we were happy to assist in the workers’ ability to celebrate May Day. Then there was a bad-ass banner drop at city hall, where four banners, including a PMUS banner and a No One Is Illegal banner, transformed the space. A member of Poverty Makes Us Sick gave a passionate speech on issues of economic injustice, especially as they play out provincially.

Mayday Banner Drop, Kitchener City Hall

The march ended with a rally at Speaker’s Corner. The Black Wood Two and Richard Garvey treated us to some tunes. We heard about the history of Chile’s miners’ strike of (1905) and their resistance to violent government repression and then a member of the Alliance Against Poverty (AAP) gave a rousing speech, and sang us his own adaptation of the song ‘Joe Hill’!

More of those black cupcakes with fuses were shared. The cupcakes were inspired by the stop at the CakeBox cupcake store, and were a specific reference to the Toronto 20, the alleged G20 conspirators. Undercover OPP operative Bindo Showan (akaKhalid Mohamed) was convinced that when the alleged conspirators said cupcakes that they meant molotov-cupcakes; some sorta secret code for a bomb! There was an open mic and a number of folks took the opportunity to speak. Some of ‘em sure do love cops . Perhaps those with a healthy suspicion of cops ought to take more care in explaining the analysis to these folks?

There is always so much to be inspired by on a day like this. The world is full of vibrant resistance to capitalism. This year Kitchener was feeling aglow with the inspiration provided by the actions of students, and their many allies, in Quebec.

It was encouraging to see that the 125+ people who attended were able to embrace a nuanced analysis. In Kitchener a violent gentrification is taking place and it is fueled by an influx of students, most of whom have not demonstrated any sense of connection to long-standing residents. The messaging of our march was in large part about gentrification and poverty. So we held the student movement in Quebec in our hearts as we challenged the students in our own neighbourhoods.

While the march was energizing, the ongoing injustices in our community require our continued commitment and action. In the coming months, to give just one example, five local Zellers stores are being taken over by Target and Walmart, with absolutely no indication that any employees will keep their jobs. We trust that the 125 peeps who attended May Day will organize in defense of the workers in our community!!!

Mayday – Marching down Madison ramp! photo: dk, http://yfrog.com/mmgrtwgj

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