This piece was written and submitted by WLUSA Executive Member, Doug Roberts
On Wednesday, June 28th I attended an online session called “Labor & Disability Justice.” Now before you get in a huff because “labour” is spelled wrong, please remember that the session was organized by Labor Notes which is an American labour publisher out of Detroit. They are the same group that hosts the huge Labor Notes conference every two years. I attended it in 2010 in Dearborn, Michigan.
Their sessions typically aren’t very expensive, which is great for WLUSA’s bottom line. This year’s “Labor & Disability Justice” session was free which made it the most accessible to the widest number of people. The session content dealt with how advocates in the labour movement can help disability advocates and how their goals are often aligned.
All the speakers were interesting, but one was particularly noteworthy. His name is Sterling Johnson, and he is a graduate student at Temple University in Philadelphia. He spoke passionately about how he wanted to participate in a recent strike of grad students at his institution but ultimately couldn’t. The reason for his decision? Six days into the strike Temple cut off their health care. The University didn’t just cut off their supplementary health care benefits, but their health care entirely. That distinction makes me grateful to live in Canada with our socialized medicine.
When WLUSA Members went on strike for seventy days in 2002, we were cut off from our supplementary health benefits. We didn’t lose access to our essential health care or OHIP. If that had been the critical choice that we would have faced at the time, far fewer of us would have been manning the picket lines. We should be grateful that as Canadians we have access to health care without relying on it being provided by a private company through our employer. Some provincial governments have been supporting private health providers, including Doug Ford’s Conservatives here in Ontario.
Fortunately, there are groups that are opposing him every step of the way, like the Ontario Health Coalition. They organized a public referendum at the end of May to demonstrate how many Ontarians are opposed to the privatization of our health care. Quite a few WLUSA Members participated in that event, and there was even a polling station set up in the Concourse (Shout out to our Vice President, External Tracy Cochrane for spearheading that initiative!).
If the continued security of public health care is something that you support then you should find out more at the OHC website www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca. As Canadians living in Ontario we should be grateful that we still have access to public health care, thanks to the hard work of groups like the Ontario Health Coalition and WLUSA.