February is Black History Month recognizing the social, cultural and economic contributions of Black people and people of African and Caribbean descent. The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) believes that Black History Month must also be a time to reinforce the collective resolve of Canadian workers to be active and present in progressive movements to challenge racial discrimination, end systemic racism and dismantle the barriers preventing the full and equal participation of all people of color.
Black trade unionists in Canada have long fought to end discrimination in our society and workplaces, and have played a central role in securing legislative changes to promote human rights for all. The struggle for equity and equality continues.
Black Canadian workers continue to face differential labor market experiences. Workers of color in Ontario are more likely to work for minimum wage and, on average, earn only eighty-one cents on the dollar. For radicalized women, the situation is dramatically more unfair. People of color are also over-represented in precarious, temporary, and low-wage work. As a result, radicalized families continue to be two to four times as likely to live on incomes below the low-income cut-off and, in some communities, one out of every two radicalized children are living in poverty.
We are at a critical time when racial profiling, racially motivated ‘carding’ and police shootings of radicalized people have spurred incredible public outrage and given rise to a Black Lives Matter movement that has swept North America.
“Challenging racism is about much more than speaking out against prejudice and discrimination when we witness it, it is about confronting systemic racism with concrete government action to remove the barriers to equal opportunity,” said OFL President Chris Buckley.
“The OFL is calling on the Government of Ontario to broaden it’s understanding of pay equity beyond the gender wage gap and make employment equity, in all its forms, a priority for all employers and for every level of government. Further the Wynne Government must make substantive employment and labor law reforms.”
We have an incredible heritage of Black activism in Ontario that has challenged racism, prejudice and discrimination and people of all races have an obligation to honor that history by celebrating it and continuing the fight for justice.
We must continually renew our commitment to racial equality and justice inside and outside our unions. For the Ontario Federation of Labor, this means re-committing ourselves to the work our activists do to foster racial justice, and equal justice to building a fair and just society. Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), Canadian Labor Congress and OFL will co-sponsor a community forum, “Empowering Our Community: Politicizing our Struggles,” on February 27, from 6 to 8:30pm at United Steelworkers Hall in Toronto.
Learn about the history of the Black Sleeping Car Porters, the double legacy of racism and sexism facing Black women in politics and the story of Viola Desmond and other brave anti-racist activists who refused to accept inequality.
Three National Film Board of Canada films - Sisters in the Struggle, The Road Taken, and Journey to Justice will be screened recounting these struggles following by a discussion on the current struggles facing the community with the objective of developing strategies to makes our voices heard through political action.
A community-based discussion to help shape the political action work of the CBTU, OFL and CLC. The OFL represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario.