Posts Tagged ‘ pmus ’

Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage, Province-wide Day of Action!

Fair Wages Now!

Saturday, September 14th, 5-6pm
On Sidewalk In front of McDonald’s
600 King St W, at corner of Breithaupt Ave

Rally and Community Outreach

Kid-Friendly, Non-Intrusive, Community-Positive

We will display placards and creative props while
distributing leaflets about the Campaign to Raise the
Minimum Wage.  We have postcards addressed to Ontario
Premiere Kathleen Wynne that we will have supporters sign.
There will be province-wide actions on the 14th of every month
until we win our demand of an increase to $14/hr.
Together we can win an increase in the minimum wage to get
workers out of poverty!
See the round-up of August 14th actions here

Prices are going up, but wages are not.
The minimum wage has been frozen for 3 years at $10.25.
It is time for an increase.
The current minimum wage drives workers 19% below the poverty line.
We need fair wages, not poverty wages.  Increasing the minimum wage
to $14 will bring workers 10% above the poverty line in Ontario.
A raise in the minimum wage makes economic sense.  Research shows
minimum wage increases get invested back into communities and do not
cause job loss.
The Ontario Government has said it will have a panel study minimum wage.
The Ontario Liberals have shown a strong pattern of stalling through the
commissioning of panels. People in Ontario can’t wait, we need an
increase now!

Why McDonald’s?
McDonalds is a member of a lobby group that opposes an increase in minimum
wage.  McDonald’s USA has even gone so far as to create a budget for their
minimum wage employees – it supposes that they have at least two jobs!
On September 14th, communities across the province will hold rallies that highlight
the membership of McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, Loblaws Family of Companies and Toy’s R Us in this lobby group.

Upcoming Locally:

Tuesday September 24th, Poverty Makes Us Sick is pleased to be hosting
Toronto’s Workers Action Centre for an evening of education and mobilization
around the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage.  This is an important event!
Hope to see you there!  Find out more here.

For more information and to sign up for email alerts about the local campaign,
contact Poverty Makes Us Sick at

Check out the province-wide campaign, and find out how to use social media in this
struggle at:
#fairwagesnow, #14now


the power of one; disrupting the mega courthouse ribbon-cutting

Today, a PMUS member disrupted the mega courthouse ribbon-cutting for an hour, gaining much media and spectator attention.  The indoor invite-only event was unable to avoid the message:  Prison is not a housing program.

With both white-gloved and black-clad security teams, high-ranking and worker Regional police, OPP, RCMP and CSIS folks attempting to intervene, Ian was able to bounce them off of each other while upsetting the proceedings.

None of the 7 threats of arrest panned out.  Ian schooled the cops on the CSUMB while continuing to bang on the windows and disrupt Milloy’s speech.

The mega-court opens for business on March 4.  It would be so lovely to see more folks opposing it!

More info to come.

Here is the little press release that was sent to mainstream media following the protest:

For Immediate Release,   Friday February 22, 2013

Kitchener, Ontario–  A single protester calls attention to disparity between provincial spending on social services  versus criminal prosecution at today’s Mega Courthouse ribbon-cutting.  Ian Stumpf, a member of the local anti-poverty group Poverty Makes Us Sick (PMUS) held a sign that read: “Prison is not a housing program” and “No poverty, no violence, no prison”.

The Liberal government of Ontario has prioritized spending on the Mega Courthouse, while cutting mandatory programs that keep people housed. The money cut from housing benefits is being spent to build the holding cells in the courthouse.

Says the concerned community member, Stumpf: “The Provincial government has, in the last three years, cut the Special Diet Allowance and the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit.  These programs were the only way that folks receiving the sub-poverty rates distributed through Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program could access healthy food and avoid homelessness.  Cutting the CSUMB also denies women experiencing violence in the home the ability to leave and establish themselves elsewhere. The way that these concerns relate to the court house is two-fold.  One is the disparity in spending.  There are huge cuts for social services, but we see $766 million spent on a courthouse. This massive expenditure proves the lie that there is not enough money to go around.  On top of this expense there is, for instance, $1.4 billion in unpaid corporate taxes that Ontario is writing off.  The other concern is related to the criminalization of poverty. Homelessness is skyrocketing following the cancellation of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit.  Homeless people and poor people are criminalized in our society.  We have to look at the full picture – those the Provincial government robs of housing can always be charged with criminal offenses related to poverty, and end up imprisoned rather than housed.”

The ribbon-cutting, also called a key-exchange, was attended by former Minister of Community and Social Services, Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy.  Though Milloy was recently stripped of his ministry portfolio, it was under his leadership that the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit was cut.  Stumpf, who wasn’t permitted to enter the courthouse, banged on the windows, yelling: “Prison is Not a Housing Program!” and disrupted the beginning of Milloy’s speech.

Stumpf explains: “Nobody knows better than Milloy that there will be a direct link between the cuts and those who are dragged into the courthouse.  The thousands of people who are thrown out onto the streets, due to the Liberals cuts, will be the same folks who fill the holding cells in this mega courthouse and eventually prison.”

Councillor Ken Seiling was quoted in today’s Record talking about the incredible and unprecedented security features of the mega courthouse, stating: “the security features are a sign of the times.”

Notes Stumpf: “At the Federal level we need to acknowledge that Canada is among the only developed nations that refuse to provide a social housing policy. At the Provincial level, we need to acknowledge that there is an agenda to expand criminal prosecution while gutting social services.  Regionally, we have a hugely bloated police force that enforces the brutality of ongoing gentrification.  So, if by ‘sign of the times’, Seiling is referring to governments turning on the people, increasing criminalization with mandatory minimum sentences and cutting supports for basic needs, then I can appreciate why they feel the need for these immense security measures.  We’ve seen what happens in Greece and Spain when the government abandons its people.  It is clear that our governments plans to continue on this trajectory, attacking and criminalizing the poor.  It is clear that all levels of government understand that we are not going to sit by silently.”

More information available by request.

Important background info:

Ian Stumpf is available for interview by contacting this email address



The Ontario budget for 2012 calls for the cancellation of the Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit and the Home Repairs Benefit (CSUMB).  The cuts are scheduled to take effect in January 2013.

Cutting these vital benefits will ensure that many people are thrown into an endless cycle of poverty, violence, houselessness, isolation and institutionalization.

The cuts will have a devastating impact on the nearly 900,000 people living in Ontario who currently rely on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for their incomes.  OW and ODSP currently offer despicably low monthly rates, already far below the poverty line.

Most people living on OW and ODSP are renters. CSUMB, sometimes called simply CSU, provides funds of up to $800 once every two years, for people on OW and ODSP to maintain their housing. Essentially, this is a homelessness prevention benefit.  It is also about offering people the necessary economic mobility required to keep themselves, and their children, in safe living conditions.

It helps people pay for things like first and last month’s rent deposits. It helps people buy or replace furniture. It helps people put down deposits on utilities or pay overdue utility bills.  The loss of CSUMB will hurt many people who otherwise cannot afford these expenses. OW and ODSP incomes do not allow any wiggle room for one to save for the costs that the CSUMB currently covers.

People on assistance are already getting free bus tickets from churches to get to the food bank.  No one is saving up first and last month’s rent!!

The people who will be hurt by these cuts include:

women and young people who are fleeing violence where they live or are trying to move from transition shelters into permanent homes after experiencing domestic violence. Denying people access to mobility is nothing short of complicity in gendered violence, which is systemic in our society.

–  people trying to move from shelters into permanent homes.

people transitioning from prison into society.  Without the ability to pay first and last month’s rent, as is mandatory for renters, those who our government has imprisoned will be likely to be re-arrested for issues associated with houselessness such as failing to report to parole or probation officers, living without a fixed address, or being forced to steal food and clothes.

people leaving psychiatric units.  Someone on OW who is forcefully abducted and locked in a Psych Unit might not be allowed or able to submit their monthly report card to OW. Even though there are social workers employed by the hospital who ought to see to this, they never do – ever.  When OW reports aren’t submitted, a recipient is placed on suspension and can lose their coverage through OW.   Certainly in the case of an extended stay a consumer will have little to no financial supports.  Even if they are signed up before they are discharged they will not have enough to pay first and last month’s rent, let alone pay for food and transportation

(new) parents who need to move into a living situation that the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) will not deem unsafe.

people dealing with unhealthy barriers to an adequate quality of life, such as bedbug infestations or mold.

people who cannot afford the rising cost of energy.

Currently, about 16,000 Ontarians rely on these benefits each month.

Municipalities across Ontario are very concerned about the loss of these two benefits, as well as the cap that the 2012 budget puts on discretionary health-related benefits.

We call on housing workers, community legal clinic caseworkers, and others who support people living in poverty on OW and ODSP to act to protect these programs, and to not merely express concern that these cuts will result in more hardship, more desperation, and in fact more homelessness among people on assistance.

On June 4th, seven First Nations communities from the North Shore of Lake Huron held a rally against these cuts held at Queen’s Park.  They have since protested in Sudbury as well.

OCAP is coordinating a province-wide response to these cuts.

Poverty Makes Us Sick is hosting an info night, including a core organizer with OCAP, on Tuesday July 11th at the Queen St. Commons Café in Kitchener from 7-9pm.

Action will follow.


Mayday Marchers leaving Victoria park. photo: dk,

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 ( 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 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,

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