Posts Tagged ‘ solidarity ’

Ontario Liberal Convention, 2014

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                                   When Our Pots Are Empty, They Become A Weapon

March 22, 2014:  Raise the Rates organizations from across the province converged on Toronto to march on the Ontario Liberal Convention.  Joined by No One Is Illegal, Fair Wages Now and Labour allies, the messaging of the day emphasized the need for solidarity between poor people, migrants and other working people.  Poverty Makes Us Sick organized free buses from both Kitchener and Ottawa.  PMUS is thrilled to now be operating in both cities. The Ottawa bus also joined our friends and allies in Kingston Coalition Against Poverty for the trip. The march and rally was attended by a few hundred people, who banged their empty pots and pans – and the windows of the convention centre – to the beats of Rhythms of Resistance.

Jointly, we demand an immediate increase in social assistance rate by 55%, the full restoration of the Specials Diet Allowance and CSUMB, no OW/ODSP merger, access to services and access to a living income – beginning with an immediate increase in minimum wage to $14.      In the case of ‘failed’ Refugee Claimants, seeking acceptance on Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds, we demand access to income itself. 

The Ontario Liberals, under “social justice” Premier Kathleen Wynne, have continued escalating their attack on the poor, overseeing the further degradation of and already inadequate social assistance regime and leaving full time workers below the poverty line.  We resist their assault.  This march and rally, along with OCAPs disruption of the Liberals $1500 a plate gala earlier in the week, serve as but one public front in a daily struggle to end this injustice.  We choose to survive the death sentence of their welfare.  We will endure their indignities and their beatings and we will win our just demands.

In addition to PMUS’s new work in Ottawa, where a re-energized Raise the Rates mobilization is rapidly taking shape, organizers with PMUS Waterloo Region have been bottom-lining work with the Community Coalition On Refugee and Immigrant Concerns, the Sanctuary City Network and members of No One Is Illegal (Toronto), to build a Sanctuary City campaign in Kitchener.  Initiated by PMUS, the work has been ongoing for some time and is about to have a public launch including the formation of a community steering committee.

Poverty Makes Us Sick remains committed to economic justice for all. 

Check out this video of the march and rally, disrupting the Ontario Liberal Convention!
Posted on Toronto Media Co-op by our friends and allies at the Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance:
http://toronto.mediacoop.ca/video/anti-poverty-march-disrupts-liberal-convention-tor/22267

 

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OCAP Disrupts Liberal Dinner

Leading up to our Provincial mobilization this Saturday, allies in the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty disrupted a Liberal fundraising gala.  The following is a press release from OCAP.  See you in the streets!

OCAP disrupts Liberal ‘Heritage Dinner’ – Stop the Liberal War on the Poor

The Ontario Liberal party’s annual lavish fundraising dinner was disrupted
this evening in Toronto by members of the Ontario Coalition Against
Poverty. In the face of grinding poverty across the province as a result
of Liberal policies, a dinner that boasts of $1500 a plate is a slap in
the face to people struggling to pay the rent or put food on the table.
Disrupters unfurled a banner demanding a raise in social assistance rates
and littering the floor with macaroni.

This action is in the lead-up to a mass mobilization this coming Saturday,
March 22nd with people coming from across the province to protest the
‘Liberal War on the Poor’ at the OLP annual meeting. The Liberals have not
only solidified the 1995 Harris government cuts, but brought down their
own brutal form of austerity. Since 2005, this government has hacked away
at the Special Diet Benefit – a food benefit – making it almost impossible
to access.

Then in 2012 the Liberals announced the cut to Community Start-Up and
Maintenance Benefit – a benefit to get people housed, used often by those
who are homeless, in the shelter system, leaving an institution, or women
escaping domestic violence. This is on top of failing to raise the rates
of social assistance to any livable amount let alone keep up with
inflation. Today people are living on social assistance rates that are at
least 55% below where they should be. Wynne talks about social justice,
but few across the province have seen any evidence of that.

“We will not let the rich dine at our expense or at least not dine in
peace. The poor will not suffer in silence and we are fighting back!”

Join the March 22nd mobilization – no matter who is in power this spring –
Stop the War on the Poor, Raise the Rates NOW! http://ocap.ca/node/1137

(end of OCAP release)

See photo, here: http://t.co/26YCD19kEz

For details for free buses leaving from Kitchener and Ottawa, see:https://povertymakesussick.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/raise-the-rates-march-on-liberal-convention-get-on-the-bus/

Action Demanding Restoration of the Special Diet Allowance Marks Day One of Dr Wong Suspension

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February 5th marked the first day of the suspension of Dr Wong’s medical licence – an act taken by The College of Physicians and Surgeons in complicity with the Ontario Liberals attack on vital benefits for the poor.  While a rally in solidarity with Dr Wong raged on in Toronto, Poverty Makes Us Sick organizers worked closely with allies in Ottawa to respond locally.  We are thrilled to have worked with such strong organizers for our first event in Ottawa. 

Despite a controlled entry system (staff employed a visual assessment of those knocking to determine eligibility to enter) we gained entry to constituency office of Ottawa Center Liberal MPP, Yasir Naqvi.  The disruption to ‘business as usual’ was sublime, the police response bloated and the demands clear:  Fully Restore the Special Diet Allowance, stop all attempts to intimidate Dr Wong and other MD’s! Raise the Rates!  Access to Healthy Food for All!

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A CBC camera person arrived and was ejected from the office.  At this time police were called.  We withdraw from the office on our own accord, before police arrived, to address the media. 

Following our action the Minister of Labour himself, Mr. Yasir Naqvi, tweeted to us that “I’m always here to discuss issues respectfully. Don’t agree w your illegal trespass & jeopardizing health/safety of community staff.”  And with those ignorant, slanderous words he became far more interesting to PMUS. Our demand is for action not empty discussion and it would not be suitable for anyone to respect someone who is involved in a murderous assault on the poor. Moreover, Naqvi’s office has controlled access requiring us to be buzzed in and the Liberal’s constituency office workers have clearly been instructed to construe distress in a sad attempt to discredit the resistance to the Liberal’s assault on the poor (evidence of this can be found elsewhere on this blog). But, by far the most belligerent aspect of Naqvis’s tweet is his suggestion that his staff’s health and safety was jeopardized by our presence. The Ontario Liberals’ vile policies are a major health/safety concern for the poor in Ontario.  A matter of life and death, not feigned discomfort.  His appropriation of these devastating realities is obscene.

Clearly we will cross paths with Naqvi again shortly. In the meantime, the following statement, with elements adapted from OCAP’s literature, was read in Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi’s office today:

Attack on accessibility to Special Diet Allowance & the suspension of Dr. Roland Wong

We are here today to stand in solidarity with Dr. Roland Wong who is being punished for the ‘crime’ of helping poor people access healthy food for themselves and their families.  The 6-month suspension of Dr. Wong’s medical licence came into effect this morning.  We are here in solidarity with poor people across this province who continue to fight against the austerity agenda of this government. 

We are here to express our outrage at the decision of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to punish Dr. Wong, a Toronto physician, for helping his patients living in the deep poverty of OW and ODSP, obtain the Special Diet Allowance.   This afternoon in Toronto, poor people and their allies are joining the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty in a rally at the College offices to demand the immediate lifting of Dr. Wong’s suspension.  And we are here, in the office of a Liberal cabinet minister, to express our condemnation of the government’s role in bringing about this act of retribution against resistance to its policies of exclusion and marginalization and our refusal to accept the intimidation of our allies in this fight.

We know that the this Liberal government was thrown into a panic and a rage when they saw that a doctor was taking active steps to reduce poverty in the face of this government’s wilful neglect.  The Ministry of Community and Social Services filed complaints to the Ministry of Health, the OPP, and finally the College, the body that regulates doctors in Ontario, and a full-scale attack on Dr. Wong was set in motion. This government, in partnership with the College, is clearly working to intimidate others who might follow his example and act in the best interests of their patients who live in poverty.   We show our gratitude, respect and solidarity with him in the face of this despicable attack.

All medical evidence shows that low income is the greatest single threat to someone’s health. If doctors and other medical providers are serious about health, they must be advocates and act to address and offset the symptoms of poverty, the single most health-compromising issue we face. It’s deplorable to see a government bullying those addressing health issues through their very institutions, and for the College to intimidate a member of the organisation they supposedly ‘represent’.

Under this Liberal government, the Special Diet program was gutted.  Only through enormous public pressure was a version of it maintained, although a ghost of its former self.  Many people who had relied on this vital supplement have been cut off and people living in deep poverty are again forced to choose between rent and the healthy food they need to maintain their basic well-being.  Instead of recognizing the social and financial logic of this investment in health promotion, your government chose to file a complaint and have a key provincial anti-poverty advocate, investigated for medical fraud when he tried to protect poor Ontarians from your neglect and get them access to the healthy food that is preventative medicine.  Today, the suspension of Dr. Roland Wong’s licence to practice medicine in Ontario will begin.  He is also burdened with tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs and penalties.  This is unacceptable, and we call for the immediate restoration of Dr. Wong’s license and the cancelation of all fines and penalties launched against him.

During the years the Liberals have been in office, the number of people working for the sub poverty minimum wage has doubled and this simply could not have been achieved without driving down the adequacy of social assistance.  Under the so-called ‘Social Justice Premier’, the recent decision to bump the minimum wage to $11, forcing full-time workers to live 16% below the poverty line, demonstrated once again the cynical approach to poverty reduction of this government.

Ottawa is now the third most unaffordable city to live in, in Canada.  With escalating rents, massive condo development, and the gentrification of our community spaces, more and more of our neighbours and friends find themselves on an eight year long wait list for affordable housing.  Thousands of people in our community are forced to choose between paying rent and eating.  We demand the province provide an immediate increase to assistance rates to reflect the real cost of housing utilities and food in Ontario communities.

While talking about ‘poverty reduction’, this government has relentlessly worked to stop anything that impedes the further impoverishment of people on social assistance.   This is a clear component of the war on the poor, and more specifically a direct assault on accessibility to food for poor and working poor folks living in Ontario.  As organizers, we have met with politicians, including two Ministers of Community and Social Services.  We have heard Liberal members express their commitment to ending poverty and to improving the lives of poor people in this province.  We have watched endless consultations, endless discussion, endless delaying tactics. We say enough. We are not fooled by the fancy rhetoric.  Your government have demonstrated since you took power that addressing poverty is simply not a priority. You can only use the ghost of the Harris era so long before it sounds hollow – we are way past that time.

The fact is, that under your government’s leadership, poor people are falling further and further behind – now requiring an increase of almost 60% to regain the losses made during the Harris regime (over 20% lost since your government’s tenure began).   Well, Yasir, as the saying goes, you can’t get blood from a stone – and these policies indeed have blood on them. 

This is but one of many upcoming actions that will aim to target all those complicit in the government’s attack on poor communities across the province.  It is time to live up to the reputation that you claim and become a real champion for poor Ontarians.  We look forward to seeing you step up but we’re not going to wait.  This is a time for action – since the government refuses to act …. the people are mobilizing.

Our minimum demands remain those of the Raise the Rates Campaign: 

WE DEMAND an immediate increase in OW and ODSP rates to bring them back to pre-Harris levels. 55% NOW– raise the rates to where people can live with health and dignity!

WE DEMAND that the minimum wage be increased to a living wage for everyone in Ontario, tied to inflation, beginning with an immediate increase to $14.

WE DEMAND the full restoration of the Special Diet to a benefit of up to $250 for food and complete reversal of all intrusive measures AND the full restoration of the Community Start-up And Maintenance Benefit as a provincially run program.   

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For more info on the need for access to healthy food for all see: http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/publication/poverty_is_making_us_sick__a_comprehensive_survey_of_income_and_health_in_canada/

For more info on Dr Wong and today’s partnered rally in Toronto see: http://www.ocap.ca/node/1132

Follow us on Twitter: @kwpmus

 

Premiere Wynne: Dont Legislate a Poverty Wage!

Premiere Wynne:  Dont Legislate a Poverty Wage!

Take action today! Tell the Ontario Liberals that their offer of crumbs is not enough.
We demand a wage that brings workers out of poverty. Fair Wages Now!

See previous posts on this blog for more details and visit raisetheminimumwage.ca

Fair Wages Now – Participate in the ‘A Million Reasons’ social media campaign!

The good folks at Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services launched a social media campaign to fight for $14 Now.  We endorse this action.  Please participate.  There call out reads:

In support of raising the minimum wage campaign, we asked people to tell us one reason why we need fair wages and/or why we need minimum wage in Ontario to be increased to $14/hr (enough to lift working people out of poverty).  This included people stuck in minimum wage jobs as well as providers and sector leaders.have started documenting their answers in a visual photo/film documentary using social media. Please take a moment to visit our facebook page ‘A Million Reasons Why?’: https://www.facebook.com/Amillionreason . Please share, “like” and add your comments.

 You can also post your own photo/reason by following these simple steps:

1.     In a blank sheet of paper, write down one reason why you feel we need fair minimum wage and/or why we need minimum wage in Ontario to be increased to $14/hr (enough to lift working people out of poverty)

2.     Ask a colleague/friend to take a photo of you holding your written response to the camera. (If you want to remain anonymous, you can cover your face with the paper).

3.     Upload photo to https://www.facebook.com/Amillionreason or on twitter with hashtag #14now

4.     Share broadly. 

The photos will eventually be compiled into a film.

We will send these directly to Premier Kathleen Wynne and Yasir Naqvi, Ontario Minister of Labour.

Many of you are aware that the Ontario government is at the final stages of making a decision on minimum wage policy for Ontario following the release of the recommendations by the Minimum Wage Advisory Panel. While the Premier was committed to create a minimum wage that is fair for workers, there are indications the minimum wage may only be increased to $11. http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2014/01/27/kathleen_wynne_objects_to_14_minimum_wage.html

This still puts minimum wage workers well below poverty line. As per panel’s recommendation, the government seems committed to increasing the minimum wage annually indexed to inflation. For this to be effective, bold leadership is needed to sufficiently increase the current minimum wage so it is benchmarked to above-poverty line, effective immediately. Marginal and delayed increase will fail to provide a permanent solution.

Please join us in this social media initiative and add your say. Every voice counts at this critical moment. Premier Wynne tweeted that she is carefully listening to what people have to say on this.

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.

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