Disgruntled participants from six political ridings in Scarborough, as well as other regions, gathered in a local school gym on Nov. 5 to discuss Ontario’s minimum wage.
“I struggle to support my family, working a minimum wage job almost everyday,” said Paulina Corpuz, one of the participants in the Scarborough South West riding.
The Workers’ Action Centre hosted the meeting at R.H King Academy, near Kingston Road and St. Clair Avenue East, to share proposals to increase the province’s minimum wage.
An increase from $10.25 to $14 an hour would “help the economy increase by five billion dollars,” according to statistics from the Workers’ Action Centre.
“In the past, we’ve gotten the minimum wage up to $10.25, but how many years has it been since then? Three and a half years,” said Sonia Singh, member of the Workers’ Action Centre. “When you were at the grocery store last week, did you see the prices stay the same since three and a half years ago? Whose rent has stayed the same? Have you seen TTC fares frozen for three and a half years? The answer is ‘absolutely not.’”
The itinerary for the night included guest speakers from groups including the South Asian Woman’s Rights Organization (SAWRO) and ACORN Canada. Small group discussions were also organized allowing residents to brainstorm on how to raise the issue to local politicians. Personal stories also helped display the crowd’s concern.
“It is not a healthy way to live when you have no time with your family,” said Sayeeda, a McDonald’s cashier and food handler who did not give her last name.
Sayeeda, who immigrated to Canada in 2005 with her husband and children, had no choice but to start a second minimum wage job in general labour in order to support her family, despite having received a bachelor’s degree in education from Bangladesh, she said.
The campaign to increase the minimum wage has been ongoing. Earlier this year in March, blocks of ice containing frozen ten-dollar bills were brought to the Minister of Labour’s office in Toronto, with similar protests in other cities.
“We have to make sure that every street corner is ringing with this campaign,” said Kay Bisnath, president of ACORN Canada and co-chair of the ACORN division in Scarborough.
“In 2007, people were pounding the pavement. Minimum wage had to increase. It was ringing on every street corner. Too much was a stake and there was no choice but to raise it. Victory is possible and we can do it again.”