On February 13, Unifor members and leaders joined the Fight for $15 and Fairness coalition, along with activists, and community and labour organizations, as part of day of action across Ontario.
“Unifor’s activism on the ground defending workers’ rights is what keeps our union and the labour movement strong,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director who led an action in London after a town hall meeting with members.
At over 250 Tim Horton’s locations, participants hand-delivered some pre-Valentine’s Day love to the minimum wage workers. Ten events were organized by Unifor, where members and leaders greeted workers who are seeing some of their benefits clawed back after winning a significant minimum wage increase was brought in to law by the Ontario government.
Unifor was an active participant to share solidarity and some love, along with Valentine’s Day cards that included the most recent Ministry of Labour employment rights poster that employers must displayed prominently in every workplace and given to every employee. Members handed out leaflets to customers, proudly carried flags and handmade signs, and shared pictures and stories on social media using #15andFairness and #IStandWithTimHortonsWorkers . The visual and fun demonstration sent an important message to workers, employers, and the public that decent wages and decent working conditions are a right that should never be taken back.
“The claim of franchise owners that they just can’t absorb the minimum wage increase and must claw back benefits to stay in business doesn’t add up,” said Rizvi, considering Tim Horton’s generated $3 billion (USD) in revenue for its parent company Restaurant Brands International (RBI) in 2016.
Rizvi cautioned Unifor members and supporters that actions must continue to defend the rights and needs of working people. “Let’s keep up the pressure on Tim Horton’s, from the franchises to the parent company, but we must ramp things up, the Ontario election is coming. Both the fight for a $15 wage and the fight to secure these legislative changes are not over,” she said.
A greater proportion of Ontarians are working poor with a low-income, where a disproportionate number of the lowest paid workers being women and workers of colour - a large segment of Tim Horton’s workforce. For them, among the roughly 1.7 million people seeing an immediate pay increase to $14/hr as of this January and to $15 next January, the workers will not only experience reduced financial pressures research indicates that moving up the income ladder improves health, including life expectancy.