The Fight for $15 and Fairness and Push Back Against Right-Wing Populism

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Alia KARIM, York University, Canada
Workers in Ontario have experienced decades of austerity measures designed to promote “flexibility” and competitiveness, and to reduce government expenditures and redesign labour laws and policies. But after two years of organizing in the Fight for $15 and Fairness, a campaign to raise the provincial minimum wage to $15 an hour and demand better work conditions, the Ontario Liberal Party made a promise to enact the $15 minimum wage and progressive labour law reform. This campaign, along with the preceding Fight for $15 movement in the U.S., has renewed the struggle for decent work by raising class demands and uniting workers across sectors in a manner unprecedented in recent decades. Of key importance in the Fight for $15 and Fairness was the campaign’s response to Ontario’s business lobby and right-wing groups. These groups flooded mainstream media with false claims that raising the minimum wage will result in increased inflation, catastrophic job loss, automation, and growing debt. On the ground, immigrant workers and workers of colour have not only challenged these economic discourses but also intersecting issues of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia that they experience in their workplaces and communities. This presentation will give an overview of past and current minimum wage campaigns in Ontario strategically aimed at building workers’ confidence to overcome right-wing populist discourses justifying low-wage work and perpetuating racism.