It is April of this year, and the third wave of COVID is beating down the province of Ontario. Things have only just crested, but there are still more than 4,500 cases per day in the province.
Through this, very little is being done by Premier Doug Ford. He and his government are still dragging their feet on all sorts of measures that could protect workers. Things like paid leave.
Instead, he offers tears.
This causes outrage across the province, and rightfully so. People are dying and the best Ford can do is be sad.
Which brings us to Unifor national president Jerry Dias. He’s the head of the country’s largest union. In April, he too was outraged at the premier.
“I’m not the only Ontarian left stunned by the premier’s lack of action, empathy or understanding of this public health crisis,” Dias said in a statement at the time. “Apologizing for ignoring the advice of scientists, doctors and frontline workers does not erase the mounting pain and suffering of this pandemic. Ford has the power to protect workers, and still, he refuses to enact paid sick days and prioritize essential workers.”
Pretty strong stuff. Directly calls out Ford for abandoning workers across the province and refusing to change course.
So it’s hard to describe it as anything other than a betrayal to find Dias, along with Ontario Public Service Employees Union head Smokey Thomas, flanking Ford as the premier announced he would be raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, on Wednesday.
This is, of course, after cancelling plans to raise the minimum to $15 per hour three years ago on the grounds that it would be“job killing.”. Thanks to Ford, the minimum wage stayed stagnant in 2018 and 2019 at $14 per hour, went up a shiny quarter to $14.25 in 2020, and a whole dime in 2021 to $14.35.
This is not a victory for workers, it’s a fucking sham so an unpopular premier—who has spent the last year and a half letting people die for fear of hurting businesses too much—can revamp his image as some kind of friend of working people. And major union leaders are more than happy to help him.
Dias stood at the event, which was essentially a campaign stop a year out from election day, to say while he had been “frustrated at times” with Ford’s government “today is an incredibly important day,” according to the Toronto Star.
“Do I think $15 is wonderful? No. But do I think it’s a good start? Yes.”
It’s pathetic, and Thomas was no better, “I said some not nice things about the premier on many occasions, but I got to know the premier at the start of the pandemic,” Thomas said, again via the Star. “Do working people have everything we want? No. But for the first time in dealing with three governments, we actually have a government that actually is listening and doing some positive things.”
They have a government that actually is listening and doing some positive things.
What is wrong with these guys? People are dead, and they didn’t have to be.
On Unifor’s website there are multiple remembrances of union members killed by COVID they likely got on the job. Ford’s inaction throughout most of the pandemic, where he perpetually delayed instituting things like shutdowns, paid sick leave, and other measures to limit the spread of the virus, directly led to deaths. Not just of workers, but of people throughout the province.
And now, here we are, mere months later and these union leaders are out there talking about what a great day it is that Ford turned around and reversed a shitty decision he made three years ago.
“For many Ontarians wages haven’t kept up with the increasing cost of living, making it harder than ever to make ends meet,” Ford said, according to CTV.
“I’ve always said, workers deserve to have more money in their pockets because they have worked hard and put in long hours. The least the government can do is ensure we’re making life more affordable for them.”
You see what the union leaders have made themselves a party to? It’s Doug Ford, portraying himself as the saviour of working people struggling to get by, when he’s the guy who made sure wages stayed low when he took power.
There was one unequivocally good thing to come out of this mess. Restaurant servers also had their minimum wage raised to $15, where previously it would sit about $2 less than the standard minimum wage, with tips expected to make up the difference. Acknowledging that tips should be required to make a proper wage is a good thing.
But even this should not be enough for Dias and Thomas to be up there standing alongside Ford as if everything was fine.
This is selling out the very people they’re supposed to be representing, just to stand next to power.
Just because a raise in the minimum wage will help the approximately 760,000 workers who receive it does not mean union leaders need to stand alongside this guy and absolve him of the horrific impact his policies have had on workers to date.
When it really mattered, when actual lives were on the line, Ford didn’t listen to a damned thing. And now here are Dias and Thomas, helping Ford look like the candidate for the working people of Ontario.
It’s a disgusting spectacle. It was always clear the worst of the pandemic would be forgotten and swept under the rug, but for it to happen so quickly and so definitively is truly rotten.
All that pain, all that suffering, and for what? So a bunch of guys can go up there and shake hands and all pretend, together, that they’re looking out for the little guy. To hell with them.