Atkinson Live

Turning to Each Other

Everyone is talking about the future of work, but rarely listening to the people whose futures are on the line. We’re interrupting this conversation with a different take on the digital economy, inequality, climate change and innovation — one that puts workers and their realities at the centre.

Atkinson Live is an initiative that gives the mic to people who are leaders in the movement for decent work across Canada and around the world. It amplifies their voices and  creates space for stories, insights and action — online and offline.

Just Work It is a brand new platform for podcasts and live events about decent work by and for millennials. It’s hosted by Ausma Malik, Atkinson’s Director of Social Engagement. This first season of three series covers topics such as the gig economy, democracy, side hustles, unions, technology, activism, innovation, power and features guests from Canada and the US. Read more about this project here.

Just Work It's Consulting Producer Yasmine Mathurin and host Ausma Malik taping the first episode of our first series.

This first series covers some well-known myths about millennials — that they’re frivolous, disinterested in the world, wired 24/7, live to work, expect flexibility and don’t want to have kids. By the end of the series, you’ll be able to tell the difference between a fake millennial and a real one!

Get it on iTunes Get it on Google Play Listen on Stitcher Available at SOUNDCLOUD

Introducing Avocado Toast

Introducing Avocado Toast
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Avocado Toast is the first podcast series on Atkinson’s Just Work It platform, for and by millennial workers.

Episode 1: Millennials are Frivolous

Avocado Toast – Ep.1: Millennials are Frivolous
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Some people think millennials aren’t getting ahead because of their frivolous spending on fancy phones, trips to Europe, and avocado toast. Studies show, however, that millennials are more budget conscious than other generations. Rising rates of student loans, precarious employment, and consumer debt suggest millennials are getting a bad rap. In the first episode of this series, Ausma breaks down the myth of the frivolous millennial and their alleged personal failings in conversation with Matt Gurney, Yasmine Mathurin, and Armine Yalnizyan.

Matt Gurney is a morning show host at Global News Radio 640 Toronto and a former national columnist at the National Post.

Yasmine Mathurin is a freelance radio producer and filmmaker.

Armine Yalnizyan is a labour market economist. She is currently the President of the Canadian Association for Business Economics and has a long list of publications and accomplishments to her name.


Check out the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Canadian Association for Business Economics. Armine has been connected to both organizations for many years.


“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each,” said Tim Gurner, the Australian property developer who started the endless memes that inspired our series name. This article by Jennifer Calfas from Time magazine, “Millionaire to Millennials: Stop Buying Avocado Toast if You Want to Buy a Home”, will give you the back story.

In this column, “I am really glad someone was a jerk to millennials before I had to be”, Matt Gurney suggests that millennials should move out of the city if they want to buy houses.

Here’s Yasmine Mathurin’s CBC Doc Zone documentary about debt and faking money called Insufficient funds: a grad’s biggest secret… is that she’s broke.

The Canadian Labour Force Survey, despite its challenges, is Canada’s main source of statistics on work.

Take a look at the ILO report mentioned by Armine. It’s by Janine Berg at the International Labour Organization. Income security in the on-demand economy: Findings and policy lessons from a survey of crowdworkers.

Episode 2: Millennials Don’t Care About the World

Avocado Toast – Ep.2: Millennials Don’t Care About the World
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Millennials are known as the selfie generation. Do they care about anything but themselves? While some take a pessimistic view of millennials and activism, evidence is tells a different story. One in four millennials who live in Canada has actively engaged by a cause or issue in the past year. Mostly, they’re working on social justice, the environment, politics or health care. And they’re not the slackavists they’re portrayed as by many. They’re using the internet and social media to create real opportunities online and IRL (“in real life” for any non-millennials who are listening in!)  In this second episode, Ausma talks with Dr Chenjerai Kumanyika, Sarah Jama, Nil Sendil, and Navi Aujla about the millennial worldview. How are millennials fighting for social and economic justice, and how is decent work (or the lack of) enabling or limiting their participation in the wider world.

Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika is a professor in Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University and the co-host and co-executive producer of Gimlet Media podcast, UNCIVIL.

Sarah Jama is a community organizer and activist, focused on disability justice and anti-racism.

Nil Sendil and Navi Aujla are organizers at the Workers’ Action Centre and on the Fight for Fifteen and Fairness campaign.


The Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion is a civic resource centre that works with Hamiltonians to create an inclusive and welcoming city. Among other initiatives, they lead efforts on increasing diversity in workplaces and on boards.

The Workers’ Action Centre is an organization by and for workers that advocates for their rights and builds grassroots movements to press for legislative and policy changes.

The Fight for $15 and Fairness is a cross-movement campaign for decent work — a $15 minimum wage, paid sick days, decent hours and much more.


We found this article by the BBC’s Christian Jarrett interesting — “Millennials are Narcissistic? The Evidence is Not so Simple.”

What do Canadian millennials really think? Check out the 2016 Canadian Millennial Social Values Study from the Environics Institute.

The Toronto Star’s Democracy Beat Reporter Sabrina Nanji interrogates the myth of millennial apathy in this piece.

Chenjerai Kumanyika referred to this article by Malcolm Gladwell from 2010, Small Change: Why the Revolution will not be Tweeted. Important to note it preceded the Arab Spring, Occupy, and Black Lives Matter. Check out his podcasts, UNCIVIL and Seeing White.

Download a free copy of Atkinson’s graphic novella on Canada’s fight for decent work in the 20th century. A Share in the Honour: Canada’s Fight for Decent Work in Joseph Atkinson’s Times.

Episode 3: Millennials are Wired

Avocado Toast – Ep.3: Millennials are Wired
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Millennials grew up on the internet – chatting with friends on messenger services, researching homework on the computer, and sharing lives on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, you name it. Is this an addiction or are millennials using technology to stay afloat in a world and workplace that expects too much from them? In this third episode, Ausma chats more with Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika and Nasma Ahmed about how millennials use technology, what this means for equity, and imagining the future of digital work.

Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika is a professor in Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University and the co-host and co-executive producer of Gimlet Media podcast, UNCIVIL.

Nasma Ahmed is a Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow, working at the intersections of technology, policy, and community organizing. Her email is and website is


The Workers Lab is an Oakland-based organization that invests in business models, platforms, and organizing strategies that build economic power for workers.


ACORN Canada conducted a study on the challenges of accessing internet in low-income communities across Canada.

More on diversity in tech in Canada: CBC surveyed Canadian tech companies about diversity in their organizations. Take a look at the results and two recent reports.Catch up on Chenjerai’s podcasts, UNCIVIL and Seeing White.

Episode 4: Millennials Work to Live

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We have talked a lot about how economic transitions and the precarious nature of work are affecting millennials, but they aren’t taking these changes lightly. In some digital industries, including media, some younger workers are using their voice, collective power, and union organizing tools to make their work decent. In this episode, Ausma gets advice from Tannara Yelland and Ahmad Gaied, who have organized their own workplaces. They also reflect on their experiences as young people active in unions, the role for millennials in union leadership, and the future of the labour movement.

Tannara Yelland is a journalist, editor, freelance writer, and was a part of the union drive for Vice Canada. Read her work here.

Ahmad Gaied is the Executive Vice President of the Ontario Federation of Labour and a long-time community advocate. You can reach Ahmad via email at


The Ontario Federation of Labour is an umbrella group for working people and their unions in Ontario. They convene a Young Workers’ Assembly in tandem with their annual convention. They are also behind the Make it Fair campaign that advocates for labour law reform in solidarity with the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign.


Canada’s Prime Minister and Finance Minister told young workers to get used to ‘job churn’ – check out the story.

Kashana Cauley reflects on growing up in a union family and lays out why millennials should lead the next labour movement.

In the US, millennial workers have played a major role in increasing union membership.

Digital media companies have been major sites of organizing over the past few years: learn about Gawker’s experience (now Gizmodo Media Group) and Vice Canada’s experience (featuring Tannara in a lead role.)

Ahmad spoke about solidarity between workers and students at York University – get the story here.

BONUS EPISODE: Dispatches from the Young Workers’ Assembly

Avocado Toast – BONUS EPISODE: Dispatches from the Young Workers’ Assembly
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Our host, Ausma Malik, attended the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) Young Workers’ Assembly in November 2017 and spoke with young union activists shaping the future of the labour movement and their place in it.

Paige Kezima – Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), Representative for Young People @CLCYoungWorkers
Aaron Zboch-Alves – Co-Chair of the NextGen Committee, IBEW Local 353 @Local353
Zenee Maceda – National Representative, UFCW Canada @zeneemaceda@UFCW
Kumsa Baker – Past Organizer, UNITE HERE Local 75 @UNITEHERE75, now with Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) @TCBN_TO @kb_woke 
Matthew Nurse – Youth Committee Chairperson, UNIFOR 1285 @uniforlocal1285 @UNIFORtheUnion
Denise Martins – Communication Officer, CUPE 1281 @sisterknees @CUPE1281

Episode 5: Millennials Want Flexibility

Avocado Toast – Ep.5: Millennials Want Flexibility
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Millennials are frequently portrayed as big supporters of greater flexibility in work. They want to explore their interests, like hobbies and travel, and work from anywhere. But this doesn’t tell the whole story: ‘flexible’ work can create insecurity, make it harder to pay off debt, and delay reaching milestones like buying homes and having a family. How millennials feel about increasing flexibility in the workplace depends on who you ask and what you mean by flexibility. Ausma breaks apart these issues with Jenny Fortin and Vass Bednar.

Jenny Fortin is a community organizer with the Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre (SWEAC)

Vass Bednar is a senior associate at AirBNB Canada and chaired the Expert Panel on Youth Employment for the federal government in 2017. She is also the co-host of Detangled, a pop-culture and public policy radio show.


The Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre (SWEAC) works to improve the lives and wages of low-income people and precarious workers. They run educational seminars, peer support groups, and information services.

The Fight for $15 and Fairness is a campaign for decent work, including a $15 minimum wage, paid sick days, decent hours, and much more.

“A living wage reflects what earners in a family need to bring home based on the actual costs of living in a specific community.” Living Wage Canada calculates the living wage for municipalities and connects to advocacy groups advocating for those wages in Canada.


Check out the reports from the Canadian government’s Expert Panel on Youth Employment, chaired by Vass.

Vass also co-hosts Detangled, a CIUT 89.5 FM radio show and podcast on pop-culture and policy with a millennial bent.

CBC’s The Pollcast asks “Are millennials now Canada’s most important voters?”

Episode 6: Millennials Don’t Want Kids

Avocado Toast – Ep.6: Millennials Don’t Want Kids
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Millennials are having fewer children than previous generations. Why? The reasons are as diverse as this generation, ranging from personal preference to affordability to apprehensions about the fate of the planet. In the final episode of this series, Ausma talks to Alana Powell and Carolyn Ferns about how the realities of work and childcare are shaping these crucial decisions.

Alana Powell is a graduate student in Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University, Task Force Member and Facilitator with the Decent Work Project at the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario.

Carolyn Ferns is the Public Policy and Government Relations Coordinator for the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.


The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care is a membership organization of child care centres who advocate for universal, affordable, high quality, not-for-profit child care in Ontario.

The Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario is a professional association focused on advocacy for ECEs’ working conditions and fair wages. If you want to support the campaign for decent work for early childhood educators, click here.


This is the Early Childhood Education and Care in Canada series that Carolyn mentioned.

For more information on the fight for high quality and accessible early childhood education in Canada, check out the Atkinson Centre and the most recent Early Years Report.

Bonus Episode: Do You Eat Avocado Toast?

Avocado Toast – Bonus Episode: Do You Eat Avocado Toast?
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In this short bonus episode, Ausma asks our guests the all-important millennial question: do you eat avocado toast? Listen for some surprising and hilarious answers from Jenny Fortin (Episode 5), Chenjerai Kumanyika (Episode 2 & 3), Nil Sendil (Episode 2), Matt Gurney (Episode 1), Carolyn Ferns (Episode 6), Ahmad Gaied (Episode 4), Vass Bednar (Episode 5), Sarah Jama (Episode 2), and Tannara Yelland (Episode 4)!

BONUS EPISODE: What Does Decent Work Mean to You?

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What does decent work mean to you? We asked our friends from the first Just Work It podcast series, Avocado Toast: Smashing Millennial Myths in Pursuit of Decent Work. Here’s what Ahmad Gaied (Episode 4), Yasmine Mathurin (Episode 1), Chenjerai Kumanyika (Episode 2 & 3), Tannara Yelland (Episode 4), Matt Gurney (Episode 1), and Armine Yalnizyan (Episode 1) had to say in this short bonus episode.

Our second podcast series is about millennials who have made the fight for decent work their work. It’s in production now and expected by the end of August 2018. If you have a story idea for this series, send your pitch to

Past Events
Building Power for Working People in the Trump Era
In Conversation with Carmen Rojas from The Workers Lab
Monday, January 23, 2017, 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM (EST)
Workers' Action Centre, 720 Spadina Avenue, Toronto

Carmen Rojas, Executive Director of The Workers Lab, joined the Toronto Star’s Work and Wealth reporter Sara Mojtehedzadeh for a  conversation a week after the inauguration of the US. President. Carmen shared her perspective on what a Trump presidency means for philanthropy and organizing efforts on decent work south of the border.

The Workers Lab is based in Oakland, California. The Lab combines innovation incubation/acceleration, technical assistance, and startup capital for entrepreneurs who are “changing the rules” about work and transforming the lives of workers.

Courageous Bets and Equitable Returns
Dr. Mariana Mazzucato on Public Investment in Innovation
Thursday, January 22, 2015, 5:00 - 7:00 PM (EST)
Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, 30 Bond Street, Toronto

The Atkinson Foundation and the Broadbent Institute co-hosted a public lecture by award-winning economist Mariana Mazzucato. Mazzucato, author of The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths. She is the Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London (UCL), and Director of UCL’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She won the New Statesmen/Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) Prize in Political Economy for her work on the entrepreneurial state and smart growth.

We collaborated on this  background paper challenging Canadian perceptions of public investment in innovation and inspired by Mazzucato’s work.