There are workers who put everything on the line for everyone else. Ultimately, their well-being is essential to the health of all.
Personal support workers and healthcare workers are stopping the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes and hospitals across Ontario, amongst staff shortages. Early childhood educators are continuing to care for children of emergency workers. Migrant farm workers are growing the crops that feed us, and grocery store workers are getting us food safely. Cleaners are working to keep buildings safe. Nonprofit social service workers are making sure people receive their benefits and the aid they need.
Essential workers take big risks to take good care of others, but their wages and working conditions make it hard for them to take care of themselves and their families. They deserve more than gratitude. That’s why Atkinson supports the groups, organizations and networks who expect more and organize to protect their rights.
Women of colour and immigrants make up this workforce and lead these organizing efforts. Few are members of a union. For years, they’ve been fighting for decent wages and benefits, personal protective equipment, more predictability at work, fair immigration status, and adequate funding for their sectors. And they’re reimagining and advocating for a just, green economy that provides decent work and shares wealth more equitably.
The Fight for $15 and Fairness continues to organize essential workers and organizations dedicated to their interests — just as they did during the years that led to historic reforms in employment standards and labour relations in 2017. This campaign has its origins in the Government of Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review. It led to Bill 148 — the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act — which increased minimum wage, provided paid sick days, and improved enforcement practices among other provisions. This legislation was reversed when a new government passed Bill 47 — the Making Ontario Open for Business Act — in 2018.
Here’s a backgrounder on the issues on the agenda of the Changing Workplaces Review. It’s by the Toronto Star‘s Work and Wealth Reporter Sara Mojtehedzadeh.
In everything Atkinson does, we are proponents of the principle of decency: no matter how limited a worker’s bargaining power, no one is offered, accepts or works under conditions that Canadians would not regard as ‘decent’. The Workers’ Action Centre’s Deena Ladd explains why when she accepted the first Atkinson Good Fight Prize on behalf of the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign in 2017 — on the occasion of the Foundation’s 75th anniversary.
Atkinson’s partners and collaborators have published research to inform public policy development on a wide range of issues related to decent work. Here is a sample of the reports we’ve supported since 2014.