Ontario Federation of Labour Launches Enough is Enough Campaign
On January 28, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) held an online meeting to launch the Enough is Enough campaign. Some 500 activists, workers and trade union representatives attended and heard about the aims of the campaign and joined in actions to spread the word in advance of a province wide Day of Action on June 3, 2023 – the one year anniversary of the Ford government being re-elected by just 17 per cent of eligible Ontario voters.
Opening the meeting OFL President Patty Coates explained that the main goal of the campaign is to address the current affordability crisis (increasing inflation, rents and costs of critical goods) facing the workers of Ontario and Canada by mobilizing all those who want to address the crisis, and organizing to support all those workers who are fighting for their rights on picket lines, forming unions or taking other actions. She said the campaign is aimed at laying the groundwork for a major escalation of the fight of workers to address the crisis.
Deena Ladd from the Workers’ Action Centre reported on the influx of calls they have gotten since the start of the new year from unorganized workers. Ladd said the overwhelming feeling is how do we fight back for our wages? “There is a desire to fight back and not just turn a blind eye,” she said. Ladd also explained that after the strike vote of CUPE education workers the Centre and its allies went into action to support the workers by putting up posters across the province, and those they are linked with went all out to stand as one with the education workers.
Jim Stanford of the Centre for Future Work discussed the issue of rising inflation and interest rates. He said that for 2022 consumer prices were up 6.8 per cent overall, but that in key areas such as food, energy and shelter the increases were even higher, which hits workers much harder than the rich.
He said that the rising prices are deliberately organized by various large companies in strategic sectors, giving the example of car companies and supermarket chains which raised prices due to shortages in supply. He outlined his ideas for specific goals: price regulation in strategic sectors; redistribution of excess profits (fiscal support for low-income workers, strengthening of Employment Insurance in preparation for a recession); protection for real income (contract clauses that raise wages with the cost of living); collective bargaining rights; address supply chain pinch-points in energy, housing and transport; use fiscal policy to stabilize the economy, and lastly, patience.
Jackie Walker, Nursing Division President of SEIU Healthcare spoke next. She condemned the “racist, anti-worker, anti-women” Bill 124 which is resulting in health care workers at all levels leaving the system. She gave examples of workers she knows who moved to the lumber industry as a result of their working conditions. She said the destruction of health care was a systematic plan of Doug Ford despite his government having every opportunity to fix things with proposals put forward by unions and advocates, but they are all being ignored, making things worse. She gave the example of the Niagara General Hospital which is closing its emergency services after hours and on weekends for renovations. As a result, people in the community will have to drive 40 minutes to the next city. She said the power we have is to share our stories to build empathy and build that power so we can actually fight. “When we fight, we win,” she said “and this is about making a plan to fight together.”
Alejandra Ruiz from Acorn addressed the conditions of renters. She said in 2018, when Ford was elected for the first time, he came in and slashed rent control, which had been won after a long battle just the previous year. He set it so that all buildings built after 2018 no longer were subject to rent controls. Ruiz said that in Toronto now it costs $2,200 for a 1 bedroom unit in the Church and Wellesley area. Profit over life, by one human being over another, should not be allowed she said. “They want us to clean their houses, serve coffee and work in hospitals, but they don’t want us to live here,” she said, pointing out that it’s time to fight together.
JP Hornick, President of OPSEU spoke last on the opening panel. She said the government and companies want us to believe that the resources are not there and it’s all outside of our control or their capacity. “We need wage increases, decent working conditions and a taxation system that makes people responsible pay,” she said. When OPSEU members who are education workers walked off the job in solidarity with CUPE education workers, it was the first step towards a general strike. 2023 will be the year of the worker, she added.
Following the panel, organizing breakout groups were held to start the planning for a week of action starting February 21, in advance of the opening of the Ontario legislature, and for the June 3 Day of Action.