Women of Steel Take to the Streets for Ontario’s $15 Minimum Wage

More than 1,000 Women of Steel converged on University Avenue in downtown Toronto for the Ontario Day of Action for Workers’ Rights.

Delegates marched over from the National/International Women’s Conference waving USW and Women of Steel flags while chanting “Hands Off!” and “Fight Back!”

The women joined hundreds of others calling for fairness for workers at the energetic rally outside the offices of Minister of Labour Laurie Scott. Once the Women of Steel delegates arrived, the rally spilled over into the street.

The action was one of more than 50 across Ontario on Oct. 15 showing widespread support across the province for the $15 minimum wage and decent work laws.

The minimum wage is $14/hour in Ontario, slated by law to rise to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019, joining Alberta as the second province in Canada to have a $15 minimum wage.

Conservative Premier Doug Ford has announced his intention to roll back that increase along with other basic labour rights, a major policy shift that was never mentioned during last June’s provincial election.

“We are here to say to Minister Laurie Scott: Hands off our basic labour rights,” said Deena Ladd from the $15 and Fairness campaign. “It’s not frills. Not luxuries. These are basic necessities! Let’s take it to the streets. We are the people!”

“The minimum wage increase meant we could make plans to pay down debt, get insurance and a winter coat,” said Christine, who works four minimum-wage part-time jobs.

“It’s hard to feel you are human when you can’t pay your bills and are living in poverty,” she said.

USW International Vice-President Carol Landry called for Ontario Premier Doug Ford to “Do the right thing.”

“Sixty per cent of minimum wage workers are women. They should not have to make a choice between feeding their family and taking a day off work when they’re sick,” said Landry.

“The theme of our conference is A Call to Action,” said Landry. “This is our first action – saying to Premier Ford: ‘Hands Off!’”

Steelworker and recently elected Member of Provincial Parliament Jamie West is the Labour Critic for the Official Opposition New Democratic Party.

“Any time labour is in the streets is a good thing. It’s time for power of the people,” said West.

“This law is already in place. The Premier and the Conservatives are telling you that you deserve less – that workers have it too good,” said West. “I’m here to tell you that Andrea Horwath and the NDP will fight Ford every step of the way. We are with you shoulder-to-shoulder.”

“The union movement is standing with the community, those who have led this fight,” said Carolyn Egan, President of USW Local 8300 and the Steelworkers Toronto Area Council, co-host of the rally along with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council.

“We can win. Do not give up!” Egan said.

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