Fight for $15 and Fairness launches in Manitoba

Winnipeggers gathered outside Portage Place Shopping Centre Monday to advocate for raising the minimum wage.

The Fight for $15 and Fairness Manitoba campaign kicked off with speeches and a march in downtown Winnipeg.

The campaign — which advocates for raising the minimum wage to a living wage, along with additional provisions for workers including fairer scheduling of hours and higher standards of work environments — comes at the heels of other similar campaigns across Canada and the U.S.

As of Oct. 1, the minimum wage in Manitoba will increase to $11.35 an hour from $11.15. Some argue that is still not enough.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has calculated the living wage in Winnipeg for 2016-17, or the wage one must make to meet their basic needs, to be $14.54 an hour.

Emily Leedham, a member of the organizing committee for Fight for $15 and Fairness Manitoba, said the campaign is about creating accessible avenues for working citizens to engage in activism.

“I will say also that we are very much inspired by the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign in Ontario,” said Leedham.

The Ontario campaign “has been very much about community organizing, training organizers as well, people who wouldn’t normally identify as, maybe, activists, or labour organizers, to really provide people with those skills to empower them to fight to improve their own conditions,” Leedham said.

Brenden Gali, vice-president internal affairs of the University of Winnipeg’s Students’ Association, spoke at the gathering.

“I think we’re in a position with the government and culturally where post-secondary education is nothing like we’ve seen it before,” Gali said.

“Where things like the advanced education act that passed last year allowed for institutions to increase [tuition], so students are paying more out of their pocket.”

Gali called the state of working students “precarious” and encouraged students to get involved with the fight for a higher minimum wage, along with other workers’ issues.

“I think labour issues are directly tied to education issues,” Gali said.

“Especially when post-secondary education is a breeding ground for leaders and future workers in this province. So if they’re not being set up for success, this province is failing itself for its future.”

Other speakers included community organizer Jocelyn Mallette, Winnipeg Labour Council president Basia Sokal and Susan Rodriguez, a member of Migrante Manitoba, a community organization that represents migrant workers.

Fight for $15 and Fairness Manitoba will continue its campaign with volunteer training sessions that will include an in-depth look at the history of the movement in Canada and the U.S. The first session is on Oct. 3.