Dad’s Day


The very first Father’s Day celebration was held in the Spokane, Washington YMCA on June 19, 1910. The celebration was launched by Sonora Smart Dodd in memory of her father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran and single dad who raised six children on his own.

The tradition caught on, and presently many countries celebrate Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June. In Canada, Father’s Day is not a civic holiday, but nonetheless it’s a day to celebrate our fathers and for some fortunate men, a day to celebrate being a father!

Back in the day, fathers were not viewed widely as primary care givers to children. Fathers were expected to go to work and bring home a paycheque and let mothers take care of child rearing and domestic affairs. Fortunately for all those concerned – but especially for children, those days are long gone.

The rise of feminism brought more women into the workforce. Economic realities frequently dictate that families need to rely on two incomes to make ends meet. As women increasingly bring home paycheques too in equal measure to men, it falls upon enlightened fathers to share equally in child rearing responsibilities along with mothers.

Today, families come in many varieties. Fathers co-parent along with mothers, same-sex spouses and step-parents and also increasingly by themselves. Father’s Day serves as a reminder that parenting is an equal opportunity affair and that fathers have an important role to play. So let’s honour fathers today and everyday.

SEIU Healthcare wishes everyone a happy Father’s Day!


Seniors’ Month turns 32 this year


2016 marks the 32nd anniversary of Seniors’ Month, which recognizes the important role seniors play in our communities.  This year’s theme is “Seniors Making a Difference.”

Seniors in Canada are living longer and healthier lives than previous generations. In 2014, over 6 million Canadians were aged 65 or older, representing 15.6 percent of Canada’s population. By 2030—in less than two decades—seniors will number over 9.5 million and make up 23 percent of Canadians. Additionally, by 2036, the average life expectancy at birth for women will rise to 86.2 years from the current 84.2 and to 82.9 years from the current 80 for men.

While many seniors lead fulfilling lives without significant physical or cognitive changes, aging can be debilitating. Physical ailments, mobility issues, chronic pain, cognitive and sensory impairments can affect one’s functional ability. Other challenges such as retirement, changes in income, widowhood, the loss of friendships through death, and new caregiving responsibilities can lead to social and emotional isolation. Research indicates that promoting and maintaining mental health among seniors has a positive impact on their overall health and well-being and significantly affects quality of life.

In 2011, 92 percent of seniors in Canada lived in a private home. Recent Government of Canada investments in affordable and social housing, age-friendly communities, support for caregivers and programs to combat homelessness are helping seniors stay in their own homes and remain physically and socially active.

Many communities have services just for seniors. These include:

  • adult day programs – including social, fitness and other healthy activities;
  • transportation services – for people who don’t have public transportation or need help to use it;
  • community hospice services – including counselling, support groups, yoga and art classes, grief support;
  • residential hospices – where end-of-life care is provided in a home-like environment for those who can no longer stay in their own homes. People in residential hospices receive a wide range of palliative services to keep them comfortable.

SEIU Healthcare is proud of our members who support and assist our senior citizens and we wish everyone a happy Seniors’ Month.

Banning Asbestos – The Personal & the Political


For the Day of Mourning on April 28th, a broad coalition of asbestos victims and family members, labour, health, environmental and NGO organizations have banded together to call for a ban on asbestos in Canada. Under the umbrella, “Ban Asbestos Canada”, the coalition is calling for a comprehensive strategy to address the lethal legacy of asbestos.  Examples of strategic initiatives would be looking into early detection, increased research, improved screening and safe disposal/removal of asbestos.
Linda Reinstein, the co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) in the U.S., is involved in these discussions as she sees a connectivity between Canada and the U.S. on banning asbestos.  Reinstein says,
“For decades, the U.S. bought chrysotile asbestos from Canada. We’ve seen the callous profiteers, miners and users, profiting over people.”

However, Reinstein says she’s hesitant to use the word ‘ban’ because it sounds like such a simple solution to an extremely complex, layered issue.  From exposures in the workplace, schools, and hospitals and to volunteers helping with natural disasters, asbestos is a ubiquitous problem which must look at prohibiting use and imports, establishing medical programs, outreach and education and workers’ safety programs for those working in contaminated buildings, Reinstein adds.

“I want to stop the import; we’re still importing asbestos since the 1900s which is horrific.  Over the last 150 years, we have consumed over 31 million metric tonnes, 31 million metric tonnes. That’s huge and that means it remains in building, in schools, communities, you know, we have a long legacy of asbestos issues.”

The knee-jerk reaction to banning asbestos, once known as the “magic mineral”, is that it’s the only economically viable option.  As Linda mentions, this notion is a complete fallacy: “It’s manageable when you do ban asbestos.  You know, there are economically viable substitutes, there’s implementation programs.  Countries do not falter and waver on the brink of bankruptcy because they banned asbestos.  So we need to get that notion out of people’s minds.”

To battle this misconception, the Ban Asbestos Canada campaign has pointed to the 56 other countries who have banned the use, exportation and importation of asbestos, such as the UK, France, Australia, Japan and Germany.  In its place, the coalition is asking for a safe substitute, which could simultaneously create Canadian jobs.  For example, manufacturing asbestos-free brake pads that are already being fashioned in Guelph, Ontario.

Linda Reinstein’s Story

For Linda Reinstein, the political is personal.  Linda’s husband, Alan, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2003 and her advocacy started shortly after.

Prior to being diagnosed, Linda said that Alan experienced the classic nine months of misdiagnosed symptoms, with no clear diagnosis of what was causing his pleural effusion.  The experience was an emotional roller coaster: “Alan went through these tests and he would get ‘negative, negative’, we were jubilant thinking ‘oh great, it’s not cancer, it’s not this, it’s not that’ but we didn’t realize the false negative was so high. So we felt we did all the right stuff in our lives and then unbeknownst to us, Alan was suffering from an aggressive, terminal disease.”

While Linda can’t be sure, she says that his diagnosis was probably a combination of occupational and non-occupational cancer as he worked in home repairs (e.g. with stucco walls) and in a shipyard in the 60s as a metallurgical engineer.

When asked who she directed her anger towards, Linda responds, “My anger was sort of widely distributed. I was angry at the government, I was angry at the manufacturers who make products, I was angry at the employers who bought those products…This manmade disaster has been caused by over 100 years of time, and frankly, ignorance. I was angered by many different aspects of asbestos: I wanted my life back, I wanted Alan’s life back, I wanted my daughter’s life back. But I always say, there’s no rewind button in life.  I had to accept my new normal and do the best I can to take care of my husband who was very ill and be the best mom I could be.”

Instead of being consumed by her anger, Linda turned her anger into action by co-founding the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.

“ADAO was actually borne out of pain, fear and anger.  The pain of having someone you love being diagnosed with a terminal yet preventable disease was overwhelming.  Alan was sixty-three and my daughter at the time was ten.  The fear of losing Alan and the fear of the unknown was huge. Would he ever work again? How long would he live? How would our lives change? Could we survive? And then the anger; the anger to know that all of this could have been prevented had Alan not worked or been exposed to asbestos.”

Linda started with a visit to Washington with her 11-year old daughter.  Senator Patty Murray was introducing a Bill to ban asbestos and Linda was determined to go.  As they waited in line for Starbucks and other places around Washington, Linda started to realize “that something was deeply wrong in our country because people would say ‘it happened to me, it happened to my family’ and then I was like ‘wait a minute, this isn’t that rare disease that I’ve been told, it’s just underreported.”

When she came home, Linda said she knew she needed to do something “fast and dramatic” Linda reflects back: “So I came home from LA, put on a baseball hat, went to a friend’s, we set up a website and I had no mission vision, financial planning, nothing, other than the feeling I knew I needed to do something.  That if I didn’t, mesothelioma would claim my life too, because I was really angry and I was so scared and I would cry in the garage, just turn off the lights and cry.  Like what do you do to help your family when your husband’s diagnosed? How do you do your homework with your child? I don’t know if anybody in your family has had cancer but it’s not just the patient; cancer impacts the entire family.”

Linda met Doug Larkin at Senator Murray’s briefing and they became instant friends. Doug was also feeling anger, as his father-in-law, Bill, had been diagnosed with mesothelioma.  Together, Doug and Linda cofounded ADAO, which takes a three-pronged approach to preventing asbestos-caused diseases:

  • Educate the public and medical community about asbestos-related diseases and preventing asbestos exposure. Support research that leads to early detection, prevention and a cure.
  • Collaborate with organizations around the world for a global asbestos ban. Raise awareness that asbestos is still legal and lethal in the U.S.
  • Unite asbestos victims to reduce isolation and strengthen community action through social networks and ADAO’s Share Your Story platform.

One of the biggest strengths of the campaign, in Linda’s mind, is the organization’s ability to blend social media advocacy and social media story-telling.  In order to get people to care, Linda says she has to be able to tell her own story, the story, a shared story so that people understand this is a real issue.  Linda says that when she started out, “I was a TEDx speaker in my community, I began testifying in front of Congress, I was able to share my story – when I say my story I mean a shared story, it’s not just Linda and Alan, it’s the Linda and Alan’s of the world.”

Now, the ADAO is the largest independent asbestos victims’ organization in the U.S., and has has shared stories from all across the U.S, and abroad from countries like Canada, Australia and South America.

“Asbestos victims find it cathartic and empowering to channel grief and anger through storytelling. We all want our stories to be heard, felt, remembered, and shared. As I like to think, sharing makes us stronger,” says Linda.

For those whose lives are impacted by asbestos, Linda says the most important approach is not to lose hope – there isn’t a cure yet but there are improved treatments and communities where they can give and receive support, such as the ADAO.

Linda says, “Every person who I’ve asked for help has extended their hand. Even if they didn’t understand or maybe they didn’t feel it was the issue they were really passionate about – every person has helped me along this journey. It’s amazing.  People understand that it’s health, it’s safety, it’s basic human rights, it’s a disaster that never should’ve happened.”

For more information on the ADAO please visit:

Equal Pay Day? – Beacause it’s 2016!


This year, the Equal Pay Coalition cites April 19 as Equal Pay Day to demonstrate that women must work the equivalent of 15.5 months to earn the same average salary of every man. Women earn less than men in just about every part of the globe. Sexism is one reason. But there are many other variables to consider. Some researchers have noticed women who hold the same education levels as men seem to work less hours than men.

Despite all the gains the women’s movement has made over the past 50 years, the pay gap between men and women is still very large. While estimates vary, the Globe and Mail found that Canadian women may earn as little as 69 cents compared to every dollar a man makes.

Why is there such a big difference between amount of money men and women earn? In a legal framework, women are fully equal to men in the eyes of the law. It is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire, discipline, terminate, deny training, demote, fail to promote or harass someone on the basis of their gender.

Men’s attitudes towards working women has changed considerably over the last 80 years. In a poll conducted in Canada in 2010, 80% did not agree with the statement “a women’s place is in the home.” Back in 1936, only 18% disagreed with this statement. In 1967, it was 56%. Women have also made up the majority of students in Canadian universities since 1991. In 1971, women made up only 32% of Canadian university students.

The more education a woman has, the smaller the pay gap. The pay gap for women who are enrolled in professional careers is much smaller in comparison to men and women who hold non-professional or “blue collar” occupations. BUT THERE IS STILL A GAP!

Age is also a factor. In Great Britain, there is very small wage gap between men and women under the age of 30. But things start to change once women get older. Women who begin to have children and start a family are more likely to work in a job that has less hours and more flexible hours. A highly qualified doctor, after having a child, will be more likely to start a family practice than work in the emergency ward in a downtown hospital. A highly qualified lawyer who works in the city’s top corporate law firm who works 90 hour weeks will be more likely to find a job at a company and serve as their in-house counsel.

A group of students at Ryerson University conducted a study to see if there is a difference between the number of hours worked between men and women. Data was pulled from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, which was published in December 2015. The research team compared the number of hours worked between 31,000 men and 29,000 women. The researchers discovered men on average worked six hours more than women do in a week. Men worked 39 hours compared to women who worked only 33 hours. However this discrepancy in hours based on gender cannot always be attributed to choice – in some cases a full-time or 40 hour/week job is simply not an available option.

The findings in this project sheds some light on our understanding of the wage gap between men and women. Given that we have found that men on average work over 6 hours more per week than women (by choice or not), it may not be surprising that men, on average, also earn more than women. However, further research into why women work less than men would be insightful.

“Unions. What are they good for?!”


Here is an excerpt of a speech I delivered to a classroom filled with PSW students at George Brown College.

“Unions. What are they good for?!” I hear this a lot from people who think unions have outlived their purpose. A large minority of Canadians feel unions are not good for the economy. They believe organized labour had a role in the 19th century but they have outlived their purpose in today’s economy. Some even feel unionized workers are overpaid and lazy.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Unions negotiate collective agreements that improve their working conditions. Unionized workers on average earn 30% more than non-unionized workers. They enjoy better pensions, improved medical and dental benefit plans, pensions, job security, and much more. Unionized employees are far more likely to belong to the middle class than their non-union counterparts.

Have unions outlived their purpose? Absolutely not. Many of us don’t even know about all the great things unions have done for us. Unions are responsible for creating a 5-day work week, an 8-hour day, a two-day weekend, outlawed child labour, introduced health and safety laws, a minimum wage, 2-week vacations, paid holidays, and much more. Many of us today simply take these things for granted. Many people don’t realize a strong labour movement is what stops these things from being taken away from us. Remember, it wasn’t Bay Street, Canada’s Fortune 500, big banks, or factory owners who fought for these things. It was unions.

Contrary to what people think, unions haven’t lost that much power over the past 50 years. 31.5% of Canadians workers belong to a union. That’s almost one-third of the Canadian labour force. And some unions are growing at a very fast rate. Take SEIU Healthcare for example. They have grown by 46% over the past 12 years. The union has expanded in nursing homes, homecare, retirement homes, hospitals and community services. In fact, SEIU Healthcare is one of the fastest growing unions in Ontario.

In the United States, unions have lost much of their power over the past 50 years. And it shows. Only 11% of workers are unionized. Did you know the Americans are not entitled to any paid vacation time? In Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, every paid worker has a right to at least four weeks of vacation. In America, companies are not required to provide any vacation time whatsoever. Companies usually provide vacation time, but there is no law requiring them to do so.

The American minimum wage is much lower too. In Ontario the minimum wage is $11.25. In the United States it’s $7.25. The good news however is that thanks to the efforts of SEIU International and other unions, many cities in the US have adopted the $15/hr minimum wage.

In individual states where unions are weak, employee salaries on average tend to be slightly lower than the Canadian average. Does that mean companies are saving money on labour costs? Managerial and executive salaries tend to be higher. In other words, unions don’t force companies to spend money on high wages they can’t afford. That money simply stays at the top.

Without a strong labour movement, Corporate Canada has a lot more power to take away the rights and freedoms Canadian employees have fought for over the past 150 years. Unions give employees a voice in their workplace – a voice that should never fall silent.

“All those burgers, all those fries…”


“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.

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


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


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

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