“All those burgers, all those fries…”

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“We want wages supersized!” That was just one of our many chants last April 15 when SEIU Healthcare joined its sisters and brothers around the world to ask McDonald’s to set an example by providing a living wage to its employees.

This year, we’re at it again, but this time the #Fightfor15 protest takes place on April 14. Why do we do it? “We’re standing with our Sisters and Brothers across North America and around the world who share our belief that all workers deserve a living wage. What started in 2014 as a grass-roots initiative to raise awareness for low-wage fast food workers in the US has grown into an international rally across over 300 cities in over 40 countries,” said SEIU Healthcare president Sharleen Stewart. “We’re here to stand for working people so that everyone can earn a fair living. It starts by setting the example for others and that’s what we want this multi-billion dollar company to do.”

McDonald’s takes pride in leading the pack, setting the example. Just look at one of their current television commercials; they are either telling the story of how they value and trust their young employees, or they are extolling the virtues of buying locally – by sourcing their ingredients from Canadian farmers only. If you look at their webpage, you will see they have their own charity – Ronald McDonald House, conserve energy, package responsibly for global sustainability, provide scholarships to their employees, sponsor Olympic athletes and kids’ hockey and yada, yada, yada, all within the realm of corporate responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, this is great stuff, but this is a matter of corporate image not values. How about providing your workers with a living wage? That would really get my admiration.

McDonald’s, clearly you like to be an industry leader, not a follower, so step up and set the trend, one that your competitors and other minimum wage employers will have to follow. I dare you. No, I double dog dare you!

If you are interested in joining our #Fightfor15, here’s how you can get involved.

Join us at McDonald’s Canada corporate head office, 1 McDonald’s Place, Toronto, ON, from 11:30-12:30 p.m. on April 14.

Tweet your comments using the hashtags #FightFor15 or #Fastfoodglobal.

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French’s- Loblaws controversy reinvigorates labour activism

By now you’re probably familiar with the French’s-Loblaws controversy, but what you may not know is that this fight isn’t about ketchup (as some ridiculous GTA radio station tried to assert this morning); it’s about saving jobs and ultimately, protecting an entire town.

Last Friday a colleague of mine showed me a video he had posted regarding his outrage at Heinz for closing down its long-running Leamington plant. This obnoxious move by Heinz, cost 740 jobs; essentially, an entire town was put out of business. An entire town!

And so my colleague John, who many of you know on Facebook as “John Tard” proceeded to create two videos: (a) the first demanding Canadians stand in solidarity with French’s (who rehired many of the workers), and (b) the second which challenged Loblaws’ decision to pull French’s ketchup from its shelves. This second video not only drew the most media attention over the past 48 hours, but also most definitely contributed to Loblaws reversing its poor, initial decision.

Now many people are quick to judge what the lesson learnt is, be it extolling the marvels of social media, or a renewed sense of buying local.

For me, this incident highlights the true meaning of labour activism and John is a great example of this dying breed of activists. As a Union Representative, John understands firsthand the challenges and threats that face Ontario workers, and he also understands the necessity to protect workers’ rights. However, and perhaps more importantly, John’s example demonstrates to us that activism isn’t just about protecting “my job” or “my co-workers” or “my department”- it’s about standing up for all workers’ rights.

John doesn’t live in Leamington and doesn’t have roots there, but when he heard that an entire town was going to lose its job, he knew that he had to act fast. As he states in the National Post, “The funny thing is, I don’t even like ketchup that much… But what I do love is Canadian workers.”

Make of it what you may, John Romanelli just hit the refresh button on the labour movement, and for that we should be grateful: game on!

By: Shilpa R. Sharma

This job isn’t for everyone – our Heroes of Homecare

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Ontarians depend on the support our Personal Support Workers (PSWs) provide every day. We want everyone to understand the skilled care, love and compassion they provide.

This job isn’t for everyone; it takes a special kind of person to do their job. They are our Heroes of Homecare. Our healthcare system couldn’t operate without them. That’s why we’re asking those who receive care from a PSW and your families to tell us how your PSW helps you retain your independence in your own home and why this is important to you.

It’s easy – just visit our website and tell us your homecare story in your own words. #RiseForHomecare

Heroes of Homecare

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I became a PSW to help seniors stay in their home as long as they could. To give dignity and kindness and love. So many seniors fall through the cracks because they have no one to help, or family, or they are too proud to ask. I try to make their day good and happy, and make them feel good about themselves.

Giselle Ralph, PSW

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I love helping people who can’t help themselves. To be able to earn the trust of your clients even when everything around them seems to be disappearing such as their spouse, health or independence is a great gift.

Darla Fiset, PSW

We’ve come a long way, but we’re not done yet.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. Every year we focus on all the work that needs to be done to attain women’s equality – and that’s still a long road. But sometimes let’s reflect on some of the important gains we have made since the 1960s.

In 1961 32% of women aged 22-44 had a job. Today, that number is more than 82%.

In 1969 only 33% of the workforce was female. Today, that number is over 48% – nearly half the workforce.

In 1976 women earned 41 cents compared to every dollar a man earned. While today, that number is only 68.5 cents, it still reflects a 60% increase.

Attitudes have shifted and the opinion that a women’s place is in the home has dropped dramatically since the 1960s.

Federal and provincial governments throughout the 1970s and 80s passed numerous laws forbidding workplace discrimination against women.

The number of women enrolled in college or university has increased as well.  In the 1960s only 10% of women earned a college or university degree. Today, the majority of students in post-secondary education are women.

Attitudes towards violence against women has evolved considerably. In the past, spousal abuse was sometimes considered a “domestic” issue – an internal affair that didn’t warrant police attention. Before the 1980s there was no law forbidding a man from sexually assaulting his wife. Today, romantic partners can be charged and convicted for spousal abuse.

While the quest for equality has advanced this cause significantly, the battle has not yet been won, but I believe it will be within my lifetime.

Calling all families of homecare

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When I was 11 years old, there was a fire at my house and my little sister, who was 10 at the time was badly burned. 80% of her body was covered with scar tissue and it took a lot of sensitive skin grafting to heal her. Afterwards, I took care of her. I helped with her physio, changed her dressings, prepared her medications because she couldn’t do it for herself and help her dress. As a burn victim she had to wear special clothing all over her entire body.

That’s why I became a PSW. Through caring for my sister, I found I wanted to help others. Someone has to do it. This happened in the mid-1980s and there weren’t homecare services like we have today. As a front line PSW I can give people the assistance they need to keep their lifestyles as they were before the ailment hit them. Andy Elliot, Personal Support Worker

The truth is, many of us probably don’t even realize that homecare impacts us. But think about your neighbours, parents, grandparents and friends. How do they survive day to day? Chances are they are a homecare recipient. In other words, someone comes to their home on a regular basis to support their living, whether it’s a bath, cleaning up after them, feeding them, doing their laundry, and so on (though we know that homecare workers do so much more than that).

When was the last time you checked in to see what type of care your loved ones have received? Often times we don’t, because we are confident that our families are receiving some of the best care under the wing of frontline homecare workers such as Andy.

Andy’s story above is one of the many reasons why it’s important we, as a collective whole, rise for homecare. People who are or will be impacted by homecare are all around you: the person sitting next to you on the bus, driving alongside you on the highway, standing in front of you in the lunch line- all of these folks either know someone who has received homecare or will one day need these services themselves. But PSWs aren’t the only ones with stories- families of homecare have some of the most touching accounts. That’s why we are calling on families of homecare to come forward and join the movement. Tell us how your life has been impacted by homecare; it’s time we hear from you.