Precarious work became even more dangerous this year for thousands of low-wage, essential workers. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we found out just how little a “thank you” does for frontline workers struggling for basic rights in factories, warehouses, grocery stores, healthcare facilities and more. What workers really need to get through these difficult times is the support to learn and defend our workplace rights, and access COVID-19 benefits.
The OEERC Education and Leadership Fund for Workers in Precarious Employment has allowed the Workers’ Action Centre to offer that vital support. Our annual fundraiser, the Workers’ Bowl, ensures that we can do what we do, delivering programs, workshops and information that benefit workers.
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This year has been busy. We have been distributing food boxes to workers in our membership, in our neighbourhoods, and who reached out to us through the Workers’ Rights Phone Line. Dedicated organizers are at the Centre every Saturday since spring to make sure workers have free, fresh fruits and vegetables. Money we raised and donations from FoodShare Toronto have allowed us to help over 100 workers each week.
As people come to pick up their food, they can also help themselves to personal protective equipment (PPE). The gloves and masks are crucial for workers, such as cleaners, whose employers have not been providing PPE despite the risk of contracting the virus at work.
Many workers also depend on the Workers’ Action Centre to help them apply for income supports. Finding themselves out of work or with less work hours and lower wages, workers could count on us to give guidance on the new COVID-19 benefits and the new rules for Employment Insurance.
As always, we’ve been offering information on workers’ rights. We’ve also kept workers on top of how those rights have changed during the pandemic. To ensure that the mostly racialized and immigrant workers in precarious jobs can access the information, we make it available in several languages.
Generous donations are what make all this work possible. Though the Workers’ Bowl couldn’t happen in person, last Saturday we held a virtual event to thank our supporters who raised just over $100,000! It’s amazing that we met our annual goal, but the pandemic means we need to do more.
As the second wave brings record high numbers of COVID-19 cases and more lockdowns, we know that workers will still need heightened support into the new year. Will you make a donation to help us support more workers next year? (Tax receipts are available for donations of $10 or more.) We’re grateful for your gift of any amount. It helps give workers the power to defend our rights and to strengthen our communities.