On September 15 and 16, the first ever Fight for $15 & Fairness Provincial Campus Assembly took place at the University of Toronto. Faculty from universities across Ontario attended and took part in discussions and workshops about how to win stronger labour legislation, as well as how to advance the $15 and Fairness agenda on campuses through collective bargaining and by uniting students, staff, and faculty.
On the first day, panel discussions allowed participants to delve into what fairness means for contract faculty, casual workers, food service workers, students, temporary agency workers, and all workers in the campus community. A lunchtime panel focused on how decent work and a $15 minimum wage are good for our health, good for equity, good for business, and good for the economy. The second day featured skills-building workshops to enhance participants’ ability to mobilize and organize around labour issues on campus.
Frankie Cachon, Chair of OCUFA’s Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee provided welcoming remarks, and the voices of contract faculty were prominent throughout the Assembly. There was a planning caucus dedicated to fairness for contract faculty and an address from Kimberly Ellis-Hale of the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association, which spoke to her experience as a contract professor and single mother who has taught almost 100 courses but still has to reapply for her job every term. College faculty represented by OPSEU, who held a successful strike vote on September 14, highlighted their key outstanding issues, including job security, equal pay, and benefits for contract faculty. You can show your support for college faculty bargaining demands by signing their petition.
Assembly attendees were delighted to participate in the Friday Evening Forum moderated by Sara Mojtehedzadeh, the Toronto Star journalist who recently went undercover to investigate temporary employment agencies. That forum highlighted the importance of allyship and mutual support among all groups working towards fairer working conditions on campus – a theme that emerged throughout the event. The Assembly also celebrated the leadership of women workers of colour in the $15 and Fairness campaign and recognized the importance of centering the voices of the most marginalized workers. There was a panel on Challenging Islamobophobia, Racism and Anti-Semitism and speeches by York food service workers fighting discrimination in the workplace who recently won their strike for $15 and Fairness.
With Bill 148: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 entering the second phase of consultations, building capacity on campus to strengthen provisions around equal pay for equal work language and fairer scheduling measures is more important now than ever.