Thousands of people, including hundreds of OPSEU members, gathered at Queen’s Park last Saturday for the Rally for Decent Work.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, who was at the event, said it was “exhilarating” to see such a massive crowd.
“Ontarians are tired of the current state of work,” Thomas said. “And that’s why so many people came out to raise their voices.
“On Saturday, we sent a loud and clear message to our elected leaders: we won’t stop fighting for the province we all want and deserve – a province that everyone can live respectably in, raise a family in, and retire decently in,” said Thomas.
President Thomas holds the "We stand for fairness" banner beside th Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) President Sam Hammond.
Organized by OPSEU and the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), the event included speeches by workers who themselves are precariously employed as well as labour organizers. Key speakers were OFL President Chris Buckley and OPSEU Local 557 president Marilou Martin.
Martin, who is also the chair of OPSEU’s college support division, was a lead organizer in the recent, historic organizing drive for part-time support workers in Ontario’s community colleges. She spoke about the state of precarity felt by part-time college workers, and the need for union representation to improve their working conditions. “We know employers won’t just hand us our rights. We have to fight for them,” she said in her speech.
Attendees gathered to pressure the provincial government for stronger employment standards, including rules that make it easier to join and keep a union, rules that protect vulnerable workers, and a $15 minimum wage.
OPSEU Local 557 president Marilou Martin talks about OPSEU's push to organize part-time workers in Ontario's communicty colleges.
President Thomas hopes the growing mobilization will push the government to act in the interests of working people rather than the interests of wealthy lobbyists.
“These days, far too many decisions are made based on large donations to the Liberal party. Actions like the one on October 1 are essential to achieving rights for all workers, unionized or not.
“Decent work is under attack,” he said. “But, together, we will save it.”
OFL President Chris Buckley addresses the crowd at the rally.
OPSEU Local 294 president Erin Warman, representing members at CarePartners, speaks to media at the rally.
Some of the OPSEU members from across Ontario who attended the rally.
OPSEU Local 672 president Dan Brisson, representing members in Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology support (CAAT-S), speaks to media.
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