Workers in Ontario are under attack. Conservative leader Tim Hudak has said he will drop the "right to work" legislation but we all know that it's still on the back burner. Right to work sounds good, right? Like guaranteed employment? Wrong. President Obama calls it "Right to work for less" and that's really what it is. It's nothing new, and started showing up in the segregated US South in 1902. And now Tim Hudak and the Conservative party want to bring this to Ontario.
To put it simply, a right to work law states that employees cannot be compelled to pay union fees and dues, even if they are covered under a union contract. The idea is that even if a union is operating in a given workplace, people shouldn’t be forced to join to keep their jobs, or ordered to join the union if other workers want to organize. Proponents of these laws say they protect the freedom of association, allowing people to opt out of union membership if they’re not interested. The reality is a strong union can make for better working conditions, a safer workplace, better benefits and more pay, and unions are stronger with more dues-paying members. Tim Hudak plans to strip worker rights and advance a low wage economy. We can learn from our brothers and sisters in the United States exactly what to expect.
I'm originally from Flint, Michigan, which is now a right to work state and has been for a few years. Since right to work legislation hit Michigan, the unemployment rate has actually INCREASED while public services are in terrible decline. Have you seen the movie Roger and Me by Michael Moore? Remember how desolate Flint was? It's worse now. They are closing roads all over Michigan due to potholes so large they are causing accidents and there aren't enough public service workers to take care and clear snow off the roads.
When I worked at a restaurant in Flint, Michigan I was held at gunpoint, and there weren't enough police on force to send an officer because "no one was shot." These are the types of things we can expect to happen in Ontario if legislation like this passes. My friend who still lives in Flint worked for the public library for ten years. Her name is Amy. When the right to work legislation passed in Michigan, many library workers opted out of the union. They had lots of reasons: they didn't want to get political at work, they felt they could negotiate better for themselves, and many just didn't have the extra $20.00 a paycheque and would rather spend that on groceries. One day, Amy tripped and fell while pushing a book truck and broke her leg. She was off for several days and found out that she was actually fired while off because she was "working unsafely." She contacted her union but they did not have the funds or person-power to fight her case. She did not get her job back and now currently works two jobs: a night shift at Dunkin' Donuts and days as a recess monitor and “lunch lady” at her children's school. Both jobs pay minimum wage, which in Michigan is $7.40 an hour. Amy was previously making $18.00 an hour plus benefits at the library. Since she was fired, she also had to pay her medical expenses out of pocket and is in great debt. Sadly, this is the norm in places like Michigan. I can tell you 15 more stories like Amy's including those of my family members but instead I will ask you to take action and find out how you can put a stop to this! Please attend the Durham meeting that will give us the tools to engage an active campaign in our communities about the threat that Hudak’s plans pose for the livelihoods of every worker in Ontario, whether unionized or not.
Thursday, Feb 27 – Durham: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – Unifor Local 222 Hall, 1425 Phillip Murray Ave, Oshawa
I hope to see you there!
Yours truly and in solidarity,