Thousands march in Toronto on May Day to highlight issues impacting workers

·3 min read
Thousands of people attended May Day rallies amid rain and chilly weather in Toronto, which were held to highlight several issues impacting workers. (Robert Krbavac/CBC - image credit)
Thousands of people attended May Day rallies amid rain and chilly weather in Toronto, which were held to highlight several issues impacting workers. (Robert Krbavac/CBC - image credit)

Thousands of essential workers, union leaders and community organizations gathered Sunday afternoon at several locations in downtown Toronto, including Queen's Park, for rallies calling attention to issues impacting workers on May Day.

Gaibrie Stephen, an emergency physician who spoke with CBC News at Grange Park, said health-care workers have been working through the COVID-19 pandemic and are tired of seeing the impact of precarious work and workplace issues and their impacts on people.

"Workers have been fighting for paid sick days for a long time, we know that this is a basic measure that improves people's health," Stephen said.

"I'm here to talk to people about paid sick days because I know that when I tell people that they need to isolate or when I tell people that they need to take time off because they've broken an arm, I need to be able to make sure that they're able to afford this without losing their job or, you know, ending up on the street."

CBC
CBC

Sunday's rallies, held amid rain and chilly weather, include a joint climate justice-workers protest, justice for Peel workers protest, an anti-Premier Doug Ford rally held by the Ontario Health Coalition, and a Filipino workers protest.

Stephen said all workers need to have a $20 minimum wage because income is something that impacts people's ability to stay healthy.

"I'm here because I think that everyone deserves status for all. I believe that no worker should be here fighting and staying here because they are unable to leave their work … worried they're going to be deported," he said.

"There are so many precarious work issues that we are dealing with here. We're here for May Day and this is our International Workers' Day, so we're here in solidarity with workers because we know that labour and work determines people's health."

Monieya Jess, a migrant worker from Jamaica, said she is unemployed right now after leaving her job due to poor working conditions.

Jess says she joined the joint climate justice-workers protest to demand "status for all."

CBC
CBC

"I'm a former farm worker. I used to work on a farm and the condition was really bad, so I decided to stop working there because that's not right for us humans," she told CBC News.

"The task is really hard … when you go to bed to sleep, you're still in pain. You ask to go to the doctor, they refuse to take you. So, I decided to leave."

Labour federation demands workers-first agenda

Meanwhile, hundreds of workers and community members gathered at Queen's Park as part of the Ontario Federation of Labour's rally.

The OFL said the action is part of a province-wide mobilization to demand a workers-first agenda, and ensure that issues that mean the most to working people and their families are on the table in the June 2 provincial election.

"Today, in every region of this province, we're coming together to show what's possible," OFL president Patty Coates said.

"We're advancing our vision for the Ontario we need and mobilizing to win it."

Robert Krbavac/CBC
Robert Krbavac/CBC

The OFL said International Workers' Day this year falls on the eve of the writ-drop for Ontario's provincial election.

"In the lead-up to the provincial election, we're making sure that workers' issues are on the table," Coates said.

"We need better in this province. That means a $20 minimum wage, decent work, affordable housing, permanent paid sick days, well-funded public services, livable income support for all, climate justice, status for all and an end to racism and oppression."

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