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$15 and Fairness celebrates historic victory and prepares for struggles ahead

By: 
Kevin Taghabon and Alia Karim

November 23, 2017

The $15 and Fairness has secured a decisive victory to improve the lives of working people, after three years of organizing, protesting, striking, and lobbying. The provincial legislature voted to pass Bill 148 on November 22 (67 in favour, 26 against). Pending royal assent, Bill 148 will include:

* A raise in the minimum wage to $14 by January 1, 2018, $15 by 2019 and implement annual cost of living adjustments thereafter. This is the fastest phase-in in Ontario’s history.

* Extend 10 days of job protected, emergency leave to all workers, of which 2 will be paid -- a first in Canada.

* Provide equal pay for equal work for full-time, part-time, casual and temporary agency workers.

* Introduce fairer scheduling and cancel “zero hour” contracts, including 3 hours of pay for on-call employees who aren’t called in, and for workers whose shifts get cancelled with less than 48 hours of notice.

* Make it easier for cleaners, security guards, homecare and community service workers to join unions. These workers will also have better protection against contract flipping.

1.7 million workers in Ontario will receive the raise to $15 an hour -- a 30 percent wage increase. The passage of Bill 148 is also a huge victory for the many low-income workers of colour, Indigenous workers, immigrants, young workers, students, and women who are overrepresented in low-wage, non-unionized industries.

Bill 148 is a testament to years of organizing and on the ground, face-to-face conversations through petitioning and strategic strike actions by workers. As $15 and Fairness organizers David Bush and Doug Nesbitt recently wrote, “A persistent, determined movement, built from below by workers themselves, wrenched the $15 minimum wage and other reforms from employers and the government.”

Of course, no reforms in capitalism are concrete, and it is imperative that the movement double down on organizing efforts as the 2018 Ontario election draws closer. Pam Frache, Provincial Co-coordinator of $15 and Fairness, declared at Queen’s Park: “Sisters and brothers, the fight begins today. What happens in June 2018 starts now!”. The Conservatives who voted against Bill 148 and proposed a $15 minimum wage in 2022, along with the business lobby spearheaded by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, will undoubtedly continue to put resources into propagandizing against these reforms. As has been demonstrated in British Columbia and Manitoba under John Horgan and Wab Kinew respectively, even an NDP government is under no obligation to proceed quickly to $15.

The victory was won through the tireless efforts of $15 and Fairness activists -- unionized and non-unionized workers alike -- showing that workers are gaining confidence to demand more and raise the floor for workplace standards. The strategies that have so far proved so successful to win Bill 148 must now be aimed at defending it, and demanding even more for all working people.

 

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