For the past 10 months, workers in low-income jobs have faced uncertain times. Even before the pandemic, many workers were struggling with wage theft, unfair working conditions and struggling with unsafe working conditions. With the added health concerns of COVID-19 and mass unemployment, it’s become even harder. That’s why we want to thank you for supporting the Workers’ Bowl that raises funds for the OEERC Education and Leadership Fund for Workers in Precarious Employment.
As soon as the pandemic hit, we knew workers would need the Workers’ Action Centre more than ever. We extended our phone line hours to 5 days a week, answering calls about layoffs, health and safety, wage theft, access to emergency income and to Employment Insurance. To reach out to even more workers, we held online workshops about Workers’ Rights during COVID-19, covering both provincial employment laws and federal COVID-19 income support. This helped ease the confusion and give workers a path forward. We have opened up our space to provide as much support as we can, especially for racialized workers, newcomers, workers who face language barriers as well as different immigration status.
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But through these difficult times, we’ve seen a boost in membership and enthusiasm for organizing to make it better for all workers. The more that workers in precarious jobs were left behind, the more we came together, eager to learn more and educate others about their rights at work. Workers’ Action Centre organizers broke through the social isolation by reaching out to workers more often and holding online members’ meetings. We all weathered the learning curve of using Zoom on different devices, also training members on various types of social media.
In fact, over 100 members recently carried out community outreach in different neighbourhoods and languages through postering and leafleting about workers’ rights. Members raised awareness about the new $14.25 minimum wage, COVID-19 Recovery Benefits and, of course, the Workers’ Rights Phone Line at 416-531-0778.
As this unprecedented year comes to a close, we’re grateful for your help to do this important work. The promise of a vaccine is good news, but we know from experience that the most vulnerable workers could be the last to reap the benefits. What gives us hope is seeing so many new worker leaders standing up and joining with us. If you didn’t get a chance to donate to the Workers’ Bowl fundraiser, please consider doing so now. Give any amount today, and each dollar goes to education and leadership development for people in precarious work. (Tax receipts are available on donations of $10 or more.) Your support gives us confidence that we can keep being there for workers in the fallout of COVID-19.