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Fairness Express has memorable week in Region 3

Rocks in formation. Bus that says: Fair is Fair in the background

Week 4 Recap

On a humid Tuesday morning, the Fairness Express arrived in Peterborough for a fun-filled week in Region 3. From May 27 to June 1, the big green bus made stops in Peterborough, Orillia, Haliburton, Parry Sound and Clarington.

In Peterborough, the bus was joined by OPSEU Executive Board Member for Region 3, Sean Platt, as well as OPSEU members Bianca Braithwraite-Davis and Angela Bick Rossley.

The first stop in Region 3 was a demonstration at the Peterborough Clinic (a private clinic) organized by the Council of Canadians along with the Ontario and Peterborough Health Coalitions. Currently, the Ontario Health Coalition is taking a giant rocking chair across the province to raise awareness for levels of care and access to care in the province’s long-term care facilities.

“There is no standard of care in Ontario’s nursing homes” said Cathy Carroll from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) “we need a higher standard of care.”

The Ontario Health Coalition is urging the government to adopt a minimum care staffing standard that would mandate staffing levels for 4 hours of daily hands-on care to ensure that patients receive the safe and dignified care they deserve.

In the afternoon, the bus visited the Peterborough lift-locks, as well as the marina, and spoke with many local residents about the impact of income inequality on their community.
The following day, the bus travelled to Orillia for stops at the waterfront and Weber’s Hamburgers.

OPSEU member and Orillia resident, Bianca Braithwaite-Davis spoke with a number local folks about the growing income gap and the decline of quality public services.

“I work two jobs” said Bianca “it is getting tougher and tougher for everyone to get by.”

“We are seeing a decline in public services and good jobs and we all need to come together for change.”

In the afternoon, the bus received a visit from twenty members of the Canadian Union of Brewery and General Workers’ (CUBGW) Local 325. They were in Orillia for an educational conference, and decided to drop by for some popcorn and a chat. It was great to see them, have a laugh and talk about the tour.

On May 29, the Fairness Express returned to Peterborough for stops at the Riverview Park and Zoo and the Peterborough Memorial Centre. While we gathered outside the Lakers Lacrosse game, the bus was joined by folk musician and labour activist George Hewison. George lent his voice and guitar to the tour’s message of tax fairness, good jobs, public services and labour rights.

The next morning, the big green bus travelled to cottage country for a stop at Haliburton’s Head Lake Park. The park is situated in the small community’s downtown core, right along the shore of Head Lake. The local folks in Haliburton were very friendly and extremely receptive to the tour’s message.

“I remember back in the 80s when Ontario was booming, and good jobs were easier to come by” said one Haliburton resident.

“Now it seems like people are struggling everywhere you go. Last year, 135 families in Haliburton made regular use of the food bank. 135 families in a community of 5,000 people! It is unbelievable.”

“The average wage in this area is $20,000”, said another. “That’s just unacceptable!”

The following day the Fairness Express travelled to Parry Sound to meet with local OPSEU members and residents of the community. The bus was joined by a number of members from Local 320, including local president Christine Marshall. All present had a great day, and chatted with members of the community about income inequality, tax fairness and quality public services.

On June 1st, the bus journeyed to Newcastle to participate in the annual Newcastle Home Show. The weather was great and the local folks were very receptive to the tour’s message.

Coincidentally, June 1st marked the first increase in Ontario’s minimum wage in 4 years, with the minimum rate of pay rising from $10.25 an hour to $11. Several local residents told us that, while an increase is good, there are still too many workers in the economy making minimum wage. OPSEU member and activist Angela Bick Rossley said that the minimum wage issue is of particular concern for her.

“As Chair of the Provincial Women’s Committee, I can say that we are continually talking about income inequality. Women make up more than 50% of minimum wage earners. When you are paying people poverty wages, you are disproportionately impacting women.”

The week in Region 3 was a fantastic success. All involved enjoyed their time with the bus and felt they had made an impact.

“I want to thank all of the Region 3 members who came down to our events and joined the bus” said Sean Platt, executive board member for Region 3.

“The tour’s message of tax fairness, good jobs, public services and labour rights resonated with our community members in Region 3.”

Beginning June 3, the big green bus will be in Region 5. If you are in the area, please be sure to come down and join the bus!

June 3 – Toronto
Coffee with Downsview Park Locals
7 am to 10 am

June 3 – Toronto
BBQ at Molson’s Plant with NUPGE Local 325
1 pm to 4 pm

June 4 – Toronto
BBQ at George Brown College with CAAT-A and CAAT-S Locals
11 am to 3 pm

June 5 – Toronto
BBQ at Scarborough Grace Hospital with Local 575
11 am to 3 pm

Meet the Activists

Angela Bick Rossley is a member from Local 303 and a paramedic for Simcoe County. She is Chair of both the Provincial Women’s Committee and Social Justice Fund. Angela has been an OPSEU member for 8 years and has been active within the union for 3 years.

Bianca Braithwaite-Davis is chief steward for Local 330 and an educational assistant at Region Park Public School in Orillia. She is secretary for the Orillia Labour Council and chief financial officer for the NDP in the North Simcoe Riding. Bianca has been an OPSEU member for 9 years and has been active within the union for 2 years.

Sean Platt is an executive board member for Region 3 and is a correctional officer at Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay. He has been an OPSEU member for 10 years and a dedicated activist for 9 years.