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“The Rich and the Rest of Us” forum October 17, 2013

“The Rich and the Rest of Us” forum October 17, 2013

We the North
We the North
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Next stop: Windsor

January 7, 2014

Please join us for the next forum.

When: Monday, January 20, 2014
What: Supper followed by forum
Where: Caboto Club, 2175 Parent Ave, Windsor, ON
Doors: 5:30 p.m.
Supper: 6:00 p.m.
Forum: 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

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Hamilton forum October 21, 2013 Review

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October 21, 2013

They’re living the life and they have the numbers to prove it. A diverse crowd turned Wednesday night for a community supper and public forum in Hamilton to address the issue of rising inequality and what to do about it.

Research released that day shows that indeed the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The middle class is, at best, stagnating. Three decades ago, the top 1 per cent of earners in Hamilton had nine times the income of the bottom 90 percent. The gap has now widened to 13 times. To put it another way, the bottom 90 per cent’s share of community income is dropping – from 71 per cent in 1982 to 66 per cent.

The report, prepared by the Social Planning and Research Council (SPRC) of Hamilton, drew on Statistics Canada Taxfiler data. Deirdre Pike, co-author and senior social planner for the SPRC is a dynamic speaker and knows how to lift those numbers off the page.

For example, the report says there are 90,000 Hamiltonians living below the poverty line. But what does 90,000 look like? Pike paints the picture: “You can fill Copps Coliseum five times with the 90,000 people,” she told the forum. ““Kids get that. And they are astounded by it. And they’re heartbroken by it,” she explained of her visits to elementary schools. What she doesn’t say, but what hangs in the air is: How can adults not be moved to do more to eradicate poverty?

The movement to do just that is growing, said National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) President James Clancy. Co-panelist with Pike at the ‘Rich and the Rest of Us’ forum, Clancy urged people not to wait for political parties to take the initiative.

“If we think one political party can turn this around, we are sadly mistaken. I think it will turn with popular movements. The Occupy movement was a signal event.

“When we show that we are continuing to grow this, I think then you’ll have political parties rushing to join the parade. But I think the parade starts with us.”

The Hamilton story of poverty and lost purchasing power is playing out all across Ontario and Canada. Anyone can help in the fight for more equality – with actions big or small. You can take the equality pledge take six minutes to watch The Monster in the Closet,  and join the discussion through social media, meetings, or a letter to the editor.

Solutions to rising inequality include progressive taxes, creating and maintaining good goods, and raising the minimum wage.

The third in a series of labour-community events, the Hamilton evening was similar to those held earlier in the year in Sudbury and Kingston. After supper, panelists shared their facts and views and heard questions and comments from the audience.

Stay tuned for more!

Hamilton Forum October 16, 2013 Annoucement

October 4, 2013

First it was Sudbury. Then came Kingston. And now, more folks from labour and community groups are kicking the fight against inequality up a notch – this time in Hamilton.

“The Rich and the Rest of Us” campaign is part of a national program. It aims to undo damage to labour rights and public services, implement a fair tax system, and to create and maintain good jobs. 

OPSEU 1st Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida will represent the union along with Regional Vice-President Debbie Tungatt and many activists and members from Region 2.

“Our union is committed to the movement for equality,” said Almeida. “There is no excuse for so much wealth being held by so few while so many go without.”

The standard of living has been stagnant or falling for many years. The forum is a chance to talk about solutions and for people to tell their stories about what rising inequality means for them.

Panelists will address the crowd and the moderator will open the forum to questions and comments.

“There is more money in Ontario than there has ever been,” said Almeida. “And we need to persist with our efforts to bring about more equality.”

Panelists:

James Clancy, President, National Union of Public and General Employees;

Deirdre Pike, Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton

Moderator:

Broadcaster Ron Charles

Several union presidents will take part in the discussion:

  • Canadian Media Guild, Carmel Smyth
  • Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, Sam Hammond
  • Ontario Nurses’ Association, Linda Haslam-Stroud
  • Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, Mark McKinnon
  • Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 1st Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
  • Society of Energy Professionals, Scott Travers

The Rich and the Rest of Us Forum on jobs, inequality, and the future of Ontario

Date: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Place: The Lincoln Alexander Centre 160 King E.,  Hamilton, ON (next door to the Crowne Plaza Hotel)
Doors: 6:00 p.m.
Supper: 6:30 p.m.
Forum: 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.

Kingston forum review, June 10

“YOYO” society needs to fight inequality

Town hall folks asked what to do, and they got answers

June 13, 2013

They didn’t need a crash course on income inequality because they’re living the life. They pushed for answers on what to do about it – and they heard plenty from expert panelists and from each other at the ‘Rich and the Rest of Us’ forum on jobs, inequality, and the future of Ontario.

Nearly 300 people gathered in Kingston on Monday night, first for a quick buffet supper, and then for a discussion on rising inequality, its nasty effects, and next steps for tackling it head-on.

“We have to talk about revenue,” said OPSEU executive vice-president Chris Cormier, referring to the pounding austerity message from governments and corporations that we can’t afford good jobs and public services, while banks and other wealthy corporations enjoy billions of dollars in tax breaks.

“We need to get rid of our weak leaders. We have weak leaders!” That’s Oliver Obagi, an OPSEU member who works for the Ontario government and is a local president in Ottawa. His call to action was perfectly tuned to OPSEU vice-president Dave Lundy’s comments about the low voter participation he encountered when running for elected office.

Ontario and Canada have to stop the cycle of giving tax breaks to corporation in good times and cutting services in bad times, said Kingston community development worker Marijana Matovic. She is one of the key voices is the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Ontario to $14. One in seven workers earns minimum wage, which now puts them 10 per cent below the poverty line.

The composite message throughout the evening was to get engaged in public debate and elections, hold elected leaders accountable, and to take back the language of a democratic society made up of people who need to look out for each other.

“To refer to people as taxpayers and not citizens is socially corrosive, obnoxious, and destructive,” said activist, writer, and lecturer Jamie Swift, who shared the stage with Matovic and National Union of Public and General Employees President James Clancy.

Invoking the bank slogan, “you’re richer than you think”, Swift said there is no need for the increasing trend toward a “yoyo society – you’re on your own”.

Ontario is more than twice as wealthy as it was in the 1980’s, yet there’s been “a revolution of falling expectations, attacks on unions, attacks on pensions, and decline of good jobs,” he said.

While wealth doubled, income inequality rose every year. The middle class is struggling to hold ground, and those living in poverty are falling further behind.

“The right engages in fear and misdirection,” said Clancy. “They want us to fight over whether your pension is too great. They want us to squabble over whether the one per cent you got is too much. There’s lots of money, but it’s in the wrong hands.”

When OPSEU President Smokey Thomas welcomed the crowd and introduced other labour leaders, he spoke on behalf of the diverse union of 130,000 members, and passed the microphone to each leader – representing nurses, firefighters, energy professionals, and teachers.

It was a proud moment for Thomas in his hometown of Kingston to hear so many voices of solidarity in the battle to claim with no apology the share of wealth that rightly belongs to the people in the form of good jobs and public services.

“Jamie Swift said tonight that ‘solidarity’ is a word we should insist on using and talk about what it means,” Thomas said following the event. “I have to say ‘thank you, Brother, because in a world of solidarity, no battle is too big.”

Kingston forum announcement, June 10

June 2013

Labour and communities are grappling with growing inequality in Ontario, and a Kingston forum on the topic is another step to educate people about the problem and what to do about it.

“The Rich and the Rest of Us” forum in Kingston on Monday, June 10 is part of a province-wide campaign that is, in turn, part of a national program. It aims to turn around the damage done to labour rights and public services, and to implement a fair tax system and industrial strategy to create and maintain good jobs.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas will open the forum with a welcome to all participants and a commitment from OPSEU to remain a key part of the movement for equality. The forum on jobs, inequality, and the future of Ontario features panelists from labour and the community, and will open up to questions and comments from the floor.

“There is more money in Ontario than there has ever been,” said Thomas. “Staggering amounts of wealth are concentrated in the hands of a few. But, for the many, the standard of living is stagnant or falling.”

Broadcaster Lucy van Oldenbarneveld will moderate the discussion.

Panelists are:

James Clancy, President, National Union of Public and General Employees;
Jamie Swift, writer, social justice activist, and lecturer for Queen’s School of Business; and,
Marijana Matovic, community development and Kingston Community Health Centres.

Several union presidents will take part in the discussion:

  • Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, Sam Hammond
  • Ontario Nurses’ Association, Linda Haslam-Stroud
  • Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, Mark McKinnon
  • Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Warren (Smokey) Thomas
  • Society of Energy Professionals, Scott Travers

The Rich and the Rest of Us Forum on jobs, inequality, and the future of Ontario

Date: Monday, June 10, 2013
Time: 6:15 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.
Place: Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, Sailroom, 53 Yonge St., Kingston, ON
Light bite at 5:30 p.m.

Sudbury forum Jan. 8, 2013 Review

"Fund fairness, you’ll still be rich", Thomas tells wealthy

January 8, 2013

While the wealthy are getting wealthier, a worker in Sudbury whose wages aren’t even keeping up with inflation plays a game each month to decide how to pay her bills. And there were a lot more stories where that came from. It was a packed house in Sudbury for a public forum on growing income inequality in Ontario.

“I live paycheque to paycheque and every month I play what I call the bill payment lottery. I throw my bills up in the air and the ones that land face up get paid and the rest get a lick and a promise,” said educational assistant Lorie St. Amand, who is raising three children on less than $37,000 a year.

The Sudbury Star reported that 500 people attended the forum and another 2,000 listened over the phone lines while local people and union leaders talked about the problem and what we can do about it.

Canada has twice the wealth it had 30 years ago, but incomes for working people have remained stagnant and public services people depend on are under intense attack by the wealthiest people and the politicians who work for them.

The forum, “The Rich and the Rest of Us”, is part of a national program to make society more fair. 

 “It’s not that there’s not enough money. There’s more than enough money. It’s just in the wrong hands,” said James Clancy, president of the National Union of Public and General Employees. “There’s always going to be inequality. The question is how big is the gap?”

Stepping up to the microphone at the Steelworkers hall and taking to the phones across Northeastern Ontario were nurses, firefighters, teachers, steelworkers, caregivers, and many others.

A legal clinic worker said she was fortunate to get off of social assistance and find a job, but “not enough people get to do what I did.”  Deficit-focused governments have cut the substantial supports that used to provide for this.

Northern Ontario has too few Registered Nurses, but government won’t spend the money to address the shortage, said a nurse on the phone from Elliot Lake.

A woman with no pension or benefits works with developmentally disabled, “the most vulnerable people in the community”, but can’t afford cough syrup. A home care worker struggles to get by on $15 an hour.

OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas said it’s critical for unions and community groups to keep working together for laws that promote fair taxes, good jobs, quality public services, and worker rights.

“You don’t pack a hall and load the phone lines like we did unless you’re onto something. The people out there know the rich are getting richer and things are getting tougher for the rest of us,” said Thomas. “The wealthy can well afford to fund some fairness. They’ll still be rich.”

Janet Gasparini, executive director of the Social Planning Council of Sudbury, is a longstanding poverty-fighter. “We really have not moved the bar very far for people living in deep poverty,” she said. Banks reap billions of dollars in profit every year and pay only 10 per cent in tax.

Sudbury forum Jan. 8, 2013 Announcement

January 4, 2013 

It is the most important issue facing working people, and it’s the reason eight major Ontario unions are holding an all-important meeting in Sudbury next week.

“The Rich and the Rest of Us” is a live and interactive forum to talk about income inequality – and what we can do about it. Representing about 400,000 private and public sector union members, the hosting unions are combining an in-person meeting with teleconferencing that allows members to call in from Timmins, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and other communities across Northeastern Ontario.

“Growing income inequality is a problem constructed by business and government leaders,” says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Their policies and actions have seen corporate profits soar while wages fall and good jobs disappear.”

Despite an abundance of wealth in Ontario, there is less equality now than there was 30 years ago. The ‘Rich and the Rest of Us’ initiative is part of a national program to start reversing devastating effects of decades of attacks on labour rights and public services, and the lack of tax fairness and an industrial strategy to create and maintain good jobs.

“We are heading into a provincial election in Ontario,” says Thomas. “And we are very focused on bringing labour and community voices together to force any potential government to see that they can not be at the helm in this province unless they commit to rapidly taking action that is significant, just, and tragically overdue.”

Broadcaster Andrew Nichols will moderate the discussion. Panelists are:

James Clancy, President, National Union of Public and General Employees; and,

Janet Gasparini, executive director of the Social Planning Council of Sudbury.

Leaders of several unions will be at the Steelworkers Hall for the discussion that includes members of:

  • Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario
  • Ontario Nurses’ Association
  • Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association
  • Ontario Public Service Employees Union
  • Service Employees International Union
  • Society of Energy Professionals
  • United Steelworkers

The Rich and the Rest of Us Forum on Income Inequality

Date: January 8, 2013
Time: 7:00 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.
Place: United Steelworkers’ Union Hall, 66 Brady Street, SUDBURY
Light bite at Steelworkers Hall: 5:45 p.m.
Childcare available.