The #MeToo Movement Needs To Happen in Low Wage Industries Too

To say the #MeToo movement has dominated conversations about the workplace over the last year would be a huge understatement.

It has brought down the careers of high-profile actors, producers, journalists and more.

But there is a problem with the movement. While we are celebrating the takedown of the Harvey Weinsteins and the bravery of the Rose McGowans out there, we are ignoring a huge part of the problem.

The ability to speak out.

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There are so many women in low wage jobs who experience harassment and are unable to speak out due to race, class and income mobility.

According to a recent study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment happens more frequently in industries dominated by low-wage workers. They found that half of the women working in the restaurant industry experienced “scary” or “unwanted” sexual behaviour. Another study found that 40 per cent of women working in the fast-food industry has experienced unwanted sexual behaviours on the job.

In the restaurant industry, where servers rely on tips, men and women have to put up with a lot.

"This reliance [on customers for tips] makes them vulnerable to having to endure sexual harassment, really, as the price to be paid for a tip,” explained Kaitlyn Matulewicz in an interview with CBC News. She is an organizer and researcher with the workers' rights advocacy organization

This can be made even worse for migrant workers, who often don’t have the ability to speak out against harassment.

Grace Vaccarelli is a human rights lawyer and pointed out in an interview with CBC News that ‘for migrant workers, confronting the boss can mean being sent back to their country of origin — and failing the family members back home who depend on their Canadian wages.’

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Basically, they are left silent.

"You're repatriated, you're kicked out. No employer's going to want you back, and the program may not want you, because you're a complainer."

When you are part of a union, you can reach out to a Shop Steward or Business Agent you feel comfortable sharing the issue with. If you are not yet a part of a union, calling one and finding out what your rights are is also an action you could take.

Trade unions are there to stand up for all of your rights as a worker and ensure that you are working in a safe and healthy work environment –  that includes being free of sexual harassment in the workplace.


The Pay Gap in Canada Is Even Worse For Women of Colour

The gender wage gap is an issue, there is no doubt about that. There are articles, reports and years of research that back it up.

The fact is that women make on average $0.72 for every dollar a man makes in Canada.

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What doesn’t make the headlines is how the wage gap affects women of colour and Indigenous women. Comparing one category of ‘women’ to men when it comes to the wage gap ‘reinforces the rigid power structures’ that compound the problem.

When you include race in the findings, you realize that this is an even more serious issue.

Studies in Canada have shown that racialized women were paid 13 per cent less than white women and Indigenous women earned 18 per cent less than the average non-Indigenous woman, and 46 per cent less than the average white man.

So why exactly is this happening?

One of the main reasons there is such a huge gap is discrimination. Whether it is blatant or systemic, opportunities are not provided or are taken away for women of colour and Indigenous women.

Indigenous women and visible minority women are also more likely to live in poverty, at a rate of 36 per cent and 28 per cent respectively. Getting out of this cycle and moving forward economically can be very difficult.

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Research has found that women of colour and Indigenous women tend to hold ‘hourly wage jobs and work in lower-paid fields’ and they also tend to work fewer hours because of the nature of their work. Also, women of colour and Indigenous women are often significantly lacking in leadership roles.

And this lack of opportunity affects pay. Add to this the patriarchal system we live in and the fact that most women have their careers interrupted to care for family members, and you can see why this is such a huge issue.

Unions have been able to help with this. In Alberta, women with unions earned $7.76/hour more with a union. They are able to bargain for fair wages for all employees, no matter your race or gender.

So next time you are talking about the pay gap, make sure you go deeper than just comparing men to women. Women aren’t just one category and if we want to move towards pay equity we must keep that in mind.


Canadian Women Face A Disadvantage In Saving For Retirement Compared To Men

Retirement. For some, it is something to look forward to and for others, it becomes something to fear.

This all depends on how you have saved for that important phase of your life. When you have a large nest egg it can be an easy transition, when you don’t it can be devastating.

What studies have shown over the last few years is that there is one group in particular that is disadvantaged when it comes to retirement savings. That group is women.

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The Broadbent Institute found that 28 per cent of senior women in Canada are living below the poverty line and it will only get worse in the years to come. Another study found that women should be saving almost 18 per cent of their income to enjoy the same retirement lifestyle as men who save 10 per cent of theirs.

Here are a few reasons why:

1.    Women Live Longer

Although the life expectancy gap between men and women is shrinking, the average life expectancy in Canada is still on average around 79 years for men and 83 years for women. This means women typically will need more money for retirement.

2.    Women Earn Less
The wage gap is real in Canada and it is large. Woman earn 88 cents for every $1 earned by a man. Obviously, this means women have less money available to put away to save. A recent study found that this ends up costing women almost $16,000 a year.

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3.    Women Are More Likely To Leave The Workforce
According to CBC News, women work an average of 28 years in their lifetime while men work 38. There is an entire decade where women are not making any income of their own. This is mainly because women leave their job to raise kids and take care of ageing parents.

Unions have fought for better pensions for all Canadians for decades, calling for the expansion of the Canada Pension Plan. Being a union member also means you will get a good wage that is fair no matter what your gender is and also means an excellent pension plan. We should be making sure all Canadians look forward to their retirement and can enjoy that part of their life to the fullest.


The Importance of International Women's Day

Each year we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. However, it isn’t just the one day that recognizes women, the entire month is dedicated to the history of women’s rights.

Because there is a long history, and the fight isn’t over.

From the suffragettes to the #MeToo movement, women have been fighting for equality and basic human rights for decades. That is why this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #MyFeminism, to celebrate feminists who 'inspire others through their determination to make a difference.'

Whenever the topic of feminism is discussed, the same comments will come up from those who don’t understand the plight women faced and are still facing regarding pay equity, poverty and violence across the globe and right here in Canada.

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Pay inequality – it doesn’t exist because the women I work with get paid the same as me.

The #MeToo movement – it’s just a witch hunt that is ruining lives.

Gender based violence – women need to stop putting themselves in dangerous situations.

Lack of representation in leadership roles – they choose to take time out to have children.

The reality is that countless studies and statistics support the fact that women are still not treated equally in Canada, and large human rights organizations are taking notice.

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In the United Nations Gender Equality Index Canada ranks a dismal 25th. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) issued recommendations regarding Canada's compliance with the UN treaty on women's rights that need to be implemented by 2020.

Unions have been involved in the fight for equality for women for decades across North America. Female union members have been organizing rallies and standing up for the rights of all workers from garment factory workers of the late 1800’s to the Fight for 15 movement of today.

So this March, no matter what gender, age or race you are, take a moment to reflect on what #MyFeminism means to you.


The Gender Wage Gap Is Real

This past year has been one of women making their voices heard. The #MeToo movement has brought attention to sexual harassment and assault, but it has also put a spotlight on the wage gap.

The wage gap is very real for women across Canada and it has been for a long time. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada clearly show that full-time working women earn 26 per cent less than full-time working men.

This is even worse for women of colour and Indigenous women. Racialized women earn 62 cents for every man’s dollar and Indigenous women earn 46 cents.

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This gap can be difficult for some people to get their heads around. Many claim it is a myth, stating that the women they work with make the same as them for the same job or that they don't know any women who have had to deal with issues of pay inequity.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the pay gap that persist despite the force of the #MeToo movement and the statistics that are found year after year on the gap. Here are just a few of them.

Women Choose Lower Paying Jobs

Fields where women outnumber men such as retail, early childhood educators or cashiers, tend to be much lower paying jobs. It has been called ‘Occupational Segregation’, referring to the ‘striking tendency of many industries to be very heavily dominated by one gender or the other.’ It also shows how little value ‘women’s work’ has in society with occupations related to caregiving or teaching paying much less.

Women Choose to Have Babies and Take Time Off

It is true that women take time off to have children and often have the responsibility of caring for children at home, but research has shown that the pay gap exists right from the beginning of women’s careers. The lack of affordable child care in Canada also has a huge impact on the pay gap, causing mothers to stay out of the workforce longer.

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There Has Been Huge Progress

Employers can pay women less, choose not to hire them or not promote them because it is the norm. A study found that women earned more than half of the university degrees and 40 per cent of the MBAs handed out in North America, but only three per cent of Fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs. Despite many more women attending post secondary and entering fields that are usually dominated by men, there are still very few women in leadership roles. And all of this is changing at a snail’s pace, with Oxfam estimating that it will be 135 years until women and men are paid equally.

 


Top Paid CEOs Continue To Earn Staggering Amounts in Canada

The first couple of weeks back at work after the holidays can be tough. You have to get back into your routine and are usually dealing with pretty cold weather.

But going back to work in the new year wasn’t so bad for Canada’s top CEOs.

By 11 AM on January 2, the highest paid CEOs had made what a Canadian will take home on average per year – $49,738. Not bad for a couple of hours of work.

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The report from The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives showed that CEO salaries are on the rise and are widening the gap between the rich and the poor. This gap has reached new highs with the top earning CEOs earning an average annual compensation of $10.4 million.

This income gap in Canada has become a major concern, especially for women, visible minorities, Indigenous Canadians and recent immigrants.

A recent study by statistics Canada has found that the income gap between visible minorities, Indigenous or recent immigrants and the rest of Canada remains large, with the gap only narrowing by 2 per cent for Indigenous and recent immigrants and widening by 1 per cent for visible minorities between 2006 to 2016.

In Canada women earned $0.87 for every $1 earned by a man last year. This gender gap can be found in this study as well with only three out of the 100 top-earning CEOs who were women – Linamar's Linda Hasenfratz: $14.6 million, Transalta's Dawn L. Farrell: $7.4 million and Atco and Canadian Utilities Limited's Nancy Southern: $5.4 million total compensation.

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Unions are one of the strongest forces against inequality in the workplace and society. It is well known that as unionization has declined, inequality has increased. Not only do union members earn more than non-union members, but they help set the bar for salaries in industries across Canada.

As we enter into 2018 unions will continue to fight to make the income gap smaller in Canada.


Women's March will take place again in 2018

Last year on Jan 21, a historic moment took place around the world. An estimated 5 million people worldwide took part in the 2017 Women’s March, an event about fighting for women’s rights.

Although the organizers say that it was not about President Donald Trump specifically, it did take place a day after Trump’s inauguration – a man who was caught talking openly about sexual assault and has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault.

But it wasn’t just in America where people took to the streets in support of women’s rights – Canadians came out in full force. Over 50,000 took to the streets in Toronto, 15,000 in Vancouver, 4,000 in Edmonton and 4,000 in Calgary.

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This year, organizers have announced that the march will happen again.

On Jan 20, cities and communities across the country will once again see people take to the street in support of women’s rights, and this past year has proved there is still lots of work to do.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada has the 8th highest gender wage gap of 34 industrialized countries and the world economic foundation found that Canada ranks in 30th place, making it 117 years before we would reach gender parity. Oxfam Canada found that working full-time aboriginal women made 26 per cent less than non-aboriginal men and women of colour made 32 per cent less than non-racialized men.

Sexual harassment and assault is an issue around the world including Canadian workplaces. A recent survey has found that more than half of women in Canada have experienced sexual harassment at work.

Domestic violence is also a serious issue for women in Canada. A 2015 study by the Conference Board of Canada found that 71 per cent of employers and 55 per cent of government employers reported a situation where they had to protect an employee who was a victim of domestic violence.

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It is clear we still need to raise our voices in support of women's rights around the world.

Unions are passionate about the fight for women’s rights in and ouside of the workplace. The labour movement was proud to take part in the inaugural 2017 march, and will once again be proud to take part in this march.

For more information visit womensmarchcanada.com.


We Need to Fix the Income Gap for Visible Minorities, Immigrants and Indigenous Workers

When most people think of diversity in a city they tend to picture high populated major cities such as Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary. But you should actually be picturing the northern Alberta city of Fort McMurray.

Fort McMurray is one of the most diverse cities in the country. There are more than 80 languages spoken in the region, and according to statistics Canada 21 per cent of residents are immigrants and 26 per cent are visible minorities. These numbers are probably much larger as the ‘short-term commuter workforce’ is not counted.

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This is something that is celebrated by local residents and Alberta, but there is a disturbing trend in Fort McMurray that is reflecting a wider problem across Canada.

A recent study by statistics Canada has found that the income gap between visible minorities, Indigenous or recent immigrants and the rest of Canada remains large, with the gap only narrowing by 2 per cent for Indigenous and recent immigrants and widening by 1 per cent for visible minorities between 2006 to 2016.

In Fort McMurray, visible minorities had a median income of $50,735, while non-visible minorities had a median income of $106,696. First Nations individuals had a median income of $46,925.

Experts pointed out that labour reform, including more access to unionization, is key. In Alberta alone, immigrants earned $3.49/hour more with a union, and Aboriginal workers earned $8.47/hour more.

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Not only are you going to get a fair wage with a union, you also know you have someone to stand up to discrimination in the workplace.

Making sure that this gap is made smaller is not just important to visible minorities and Indigenous workers, but also to all Canadians.


Gender Inequality in the Tech World

It’s nothing new to see Google grabbing headlines. It would actually be weird to not hear about the latest tech update from the mega company.

But this week the tech giant is making headlines for a not so great reason – anti-diversity.

A senior software engineer sent out a memo titled ‘Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.’ In it he argued that ‘that the gender gaps at Google are the result of biological differences between men and women, and that the company shouldn’t offer programs that help under-represented groups.’ He also argued that politically conservative employees are discriminated against and there is little protection for that group.

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This isn’t the first incident of anti-diversity at Google. Earlier this year the US Department of Labor said that the company had been systematically underpaying female employees.

It is a problem that spreads across a lot tech companies and across borders.

According to an article by CBC news women make up less than a third of the workforce at many tech companies. Tech companies say this is a ‘pipeline problem’ and that there aren’t enough women and minorities with the right qualifications.

One way to fight discrimination in the workplace is unionizing, something more tech company employees are pushing for. It has been argued in the past that tech companies are often seen as great places to work without a union, but in the past year more and more stories of discrimination have come to the surface.

Last year shuttle drivers and warehouse workers voted to unionize with Teamsters. Amazon employees in Seattle were laid off just as their organizing was starting to gain momentum.

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Unions have played a major role for  women’s rights in the workplace, including the Teamsters with contracts that have lead the way when it comes to gender equality. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union.

A collective agreement can ensure that all workers are treated equally and have rights to protect them in the workplace, something it seems more tech companies need.

 


Closing the Gender Gap Could Add $150 Billion to the Economy

Finding a way to close the gender gap is not only good for women in Canada, but also the economy.

A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute found that progress in getting more women into managerial positions, entrepreneurship and the workplace in general could add $150 billion more to the Canadian economy by 2026.

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They said that better public and private policies could help grow the annual GDP by 0.6 per cent. The report said the the effect would be the same as adding a whole new financial sector to the economy.

Unfortunately, there are some trends that are troubling.

One major issue is the lack of women in leadership or managerial roles. A study from 2015 found that nearly three quarters of working Canadian women are in roles below the management level. They make up nearly half of all entry level positions, despite the fact they outnumber men at post-secondary.

Another is that women’s labour force participation rate is decreasing and has been since the 1990’s. This is expected to continue unless something is done.

There is also the gender pay gap in Canada that the United Nations described as ‘concerning.’ Women earn $0.82 for every dollar earned by a man.

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Under no circumstances are there any Teamsters agreements where men and woman receive a different pay rate for the same job. Men and women deserve equal pay and it is something the union strongly believes in.

In fact, studies have shown that being a member of a union can help narrow the gap for women. Union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union, getting paid more fairly.

Any way you look at the workplace and women’s roles, it is clear that we need to make changes for the good of all Canadians.