On June 3, thousands of us came together at Toronto City Hall and marched to Queen’s Park to say that Enough is Enough! Attended by so many unions and sponsored by the Ontario Federation of Labour and Justice4Workers, Saturday’s rally became a huge day of action to put workers’ demands front and centre.
Valerie from Spring Magazine interviewed five people who shared their reasons for showing up. Their fortitude and vision is incredibly inspiring. Their narratives also make it clear that workers have been undermined and disempowered in a labour system that has been abusing us systematically without mercy and ignoring our human rights. All because leaving workers behind makes the ruling class even wealthier.
Suppression of wages, while allowing rent and living expenses to soar out of control, is affecting millions across Ontario. That’s why workers came together and we will continue fighting for our rights together. We may be suffering from this to different degrees – but we all agree that Enough is Enough!
Why are you marching?
Rashid Limbada from York South West Tenants Union: “Enough is enough. It’s too expensive now, from groceries to rent. Every year rent goes higher. The raise is between $22-25 right now, more than we can afford. I have been here 35 years in this country. It looks very different. It’s very hard for people to live. Some people don’t have the food they need. I have too many people I know with no food, no money, so how can they survive?”
Mitra Yakubi – Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario: “There are a lot of issues students are impacted by. Students have been struggling throughout the pandemic, but also before, with a variety of things but including a consistent rise in tuition fees. Students are also struggling to make ends meet because the cost of living has consistently gone up. There have been rising costs in related issues like housing, and food insecurity on campus has increased. So we’re here to make sure that students are showing solidarity with workers because we also know that students are not just students, they are workers and renters, so there are a variety of issues by which they are impacted. I was excited to be here because we like to stand in solidarity because we know our issues intersect in a variety of ways. And we know when we organize together we win. The people united will never be defeated.”
Adaeze Mbalaja – National Executive Representative, CFS-Ontario: “What we’re seeing at this action is, at the end of the day, students are workers and workers are students. So the demands here are for issues that people across the province are facing, from low wages, from lack of accessible housing, from lack of transit, lack of a priority for health care and so on. All of these issues are relevant to students. As people within this province, we’re suffering collectively. So that’s why we’re here – to also mobilize collectively.”
John Crumkleton – Teacher in Toronto: “The cuts this year are particularly dramatic. We have large class sizes. We desperately need more funding for special education. We want to see things improved but we keep seeing them get worse. It’s hard to see.”
Florence Gerald – Migrant Workers Alliance for Change: “One great issue is permanent residency. When new people come to this country, as visitors, students or refugees, along the way they fall out of status and they can be deported. Some of them have been here for four or five years. They have made their home here, they have been working here, building the economy. But suddenly their lives are upended if they have to be sent back to their country. Many countries are not safe. Right now, if someone is being sent back to Uganda and you belong to the LGBTQ community, your life is in danger. If someone is being sent to Sudan, right now there’s a war. And there are so many people from those countries with us who are being deported right now. So the issue of permanent residence is very important to me and to others because that is what is needed to get lives back. It’s basic human rights like health, education and many other living standards. If you don’t have family to help, it’s really, really hard for you to get by.
“The Enough is Enough campaign is about what we are saying. Because most of the workers who are not documented, who don’t have permanent residency, are the ones who are being mistreated by their employers. They are the ones not being paid enough. They are the ones living in harsh conditions. They are the ones unable to access health care. So the Enough is Enough campaign is like this. People have been separated from their families for far too long. People have been working so hard, building the economy in this country, yet they are denied permanent residence. So we are saying “Enough is enough” today, and let every worker get accepted for permanent residence so they can live in this country. They are human and deserve basic human rights like everyone else.”
What will it take to win?
Rashid: “We have to fight back and Ford to take care of all people in Ontario. The turnout today is very effective to push Doug Ford.”
Adaeze: “Today is a really great example of what it will take. Really and truly, when we see change we know it’s when people have become united together in solidarity and through struggle to take on the issues and to take up space. Today was a perfect example. We’re glad to see so many different organizations here. We’re really taking a lot inspiration from today because we have a National Day of Action coming up November 8, 2023, and that will be with students across Canada to demand affordable education, to demand removal of tuition fees. We know we’ll see change when we see a consistent effort of people uniting together, mobilizing and organizing, and really demanding change. We’re not going to settle for anything less.”
John: “We need a lot more days like this but we need to build on it and get more and more people to come each time. If everybody here can bring two more people next time, that’ll be pretty impressive. Then after that, who knows?”
Florence: “The main thing to win is unity. People need to be united, from different places but facing the same issues. We need to keep fighting and the politicians need to listen to us. They need to know that we are running the economy. So the main thing is for these politicians to make the right decisions and improve workers wage; improve people’s living conditions; improve our access to health care, to affordable housing, and all the other issues people are suffering from. We are the people building their economy.”
Enough is enough
As can be seen, workers’ demands for change encompass a wide range of issues. Understanding the intersectionality of these issues is crucial to getting to the root of all oppressions and economic exploitation.
Enough is enough! Ontario is one of the wealthiest provinces in this country, but a large percentage of workers are at or below the poverty line. We’re suffering the same deadly side-effects of capitalist governments and big business prioritizing profit-making above health and human lives
Enough is Enough! Renters, students, seniors, racialized and undocumented workers, caregivers, health workers, and all service workers all marched together in solidarity to tell big business CEO’s and our government representatives that the only cuts we need are cuts to worker abuse. No more taking nurses or any other workers to court to keep their salaries low – hell No!
Enough is Enough! We have had enough mis-information from the mainstream. Enough lies planted into too many hearts and minds, to divide people against each other. Enough twisted spin on this diabolical system that says over and over that ordinary workers are the culprits and that people below the poverty line are the problem. In truth, this city and this province could not be built without us, and cannot keep running without us: the workers!
Workers who demand fair wages to survive are not culprits who complain, and we are not running riots. We are organizing to regain workers’ rights. Police should not be enlisted to threaten us, evict us, or to beat us down. We only seek economic justice from those who have hoarded profits for themselves, and used their power against workers. This is clear to so many people trying to survive in this province.
We need humane changes to the labour system now. Our energy is not for hate, it is for inclusive economic justice. What it will take to win real change invites even more of us to rise up and voice our demands. More and more workers are finally willing to speak out and Spring Magazine is happy to help spread the words.
We thank all those interviewed for marching on June 3 and for articulating to all exactly why it remains crucial for everyone to support justice for migrant workers, and for all workers!
Enough is Enough! Ontario needs justice for workers NOW!
If you are in Toronto, join Spring for a discussion “What’s a general strike and how can we make it happen?” on June 15 at 6pm – 720 Spadina Ave. #202.
Everyone is also welcome to attend our Pan-Canadian Meeting online June 11 at 6 pm ET. Register here.
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