(This article is from the WLUFA Advocate April 2017 5.2)
By Eddie Sauvé, MA Candidate, Social Justice and Community Engagement.
This term, students at Laurier-Brantford have begun a campaign for the Fight for $15 & Fairness. Provincially the movement is driven to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and to improve protections for workers from things such as precarious scheduling techniques. Low-wage workers today, making the current minimum wage of $11.25, cannot afford to meet their most basic needs.
Our group began by making short presentations in classrooms and by tabling in the university’s lobby. After the first day of our campaign, we had 104 petition signatures and a group of 13 students, faculty and community members committed to becoming more involved. Since then, we have gained momentum, new signatures (149 at last count) and dedicated individuals at each of our events. It has become clear that the Fight for $15 & Fairness is something that resonates within our community.
As a group, we are determined to continue collecting petition signatures and bring them to Brantford’s MPP, Dave Levac. We hope this will show how much our community needs $15 & Fairness and provide Mr. Levac with the confidence to read and support the demands of the movement when the Changing Workplaces Review – a report aimed at reforming Ontario’s labour legislation–reaches the legislature in the very near future.
Additionally, through discussions while tabling and within our group, we’ve learned how much our students and contract faculty at Laurier -Brantford are being affected by low-wage, precarious work. We don’t feel comfortable fighting only at the provincial level and recognize that there is a need to also push our university to provide its workers with wages that reflect our basic needs now. Students are paying a lot of money to attend this university, and we should expect that our students, faculty and staff that keep it running are paid enough to afford a basic standard of living.
Fight for $15 & Fairness has also played a key role in making connections and building solidarity within our campus. After attending a canvass training session led by Ryerson sociologist and activist Alan Sears, different campus groups recognized that if we work together towards shared goals, we could accomplish a lot more. Inspired by this moment, Fight for $15 & Fairness, the Women’s Centre, Laurier Student Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG), Advocates for a Student Culture of Consent (ASCC) and independent students worked together to organize a university-wide student walkout on International Women’s Day. The walkout was held in solidarity with women’s strikes around the world, and it demanded accountability from the university while building student confidence that collective action is possible and important in Brantford. The event was incredibly successful drawing in over 100 students who walked out of class to a rally in RCW Lobby. This is the first time such an action has ever happened on the Brantford campus.
Our groups hope to continue to work in solidarity. Each week Fight for $15 & Fairness is hosting Passionate Letter Writing Nights led by other campus and community groups, such as the Sexual Assault Centre, the Mental Health Education Group and the Injured Workers of Brantford. There are also plans for our groups to collaborate on a social justice themed zine to keep in contact and work together.
Keep up to date with upcoming events and find out how you can get more involved by requesting our weekly email summary from firstname.lastname@example.org, or join LB Fight for $15 & Fairness on Facebook.