After a year of COVID-19, a National Day of Mourning for workers who died or were injured on the job isn’t enough for some labour activists in Greater Toronto.
They want a whole week, from Sunday, April 25, to Saturday, May 1, declared a “week of pause” in Ontario.
There’s no accurate count of everyone — farm labourers, Amazon associates, personal support workers, nurses, bus drivers, cleaners, restaurant servers — who lost their lives or suffered over the pandemic after catching the virus at work, but it dwarfs tolls commemorated during past Days of Mourning in Ontario.
It was the Tamil Workers Network, volunteers working with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, which first proposed going beyond the Day of Mourning on April 28 to “make Ontario pause, reflect on the power of its workers and the respect they deserve.”
Jennifer Huang, representing the labour council’s Chinese Workers Network, called the Tamil workers’ letter timely. “There’s a whole bunch of things (in it) we wholeheartedly agree with,” said Huang, who said her group will likely write its own open letter to the province asking for similar things. I think workers need to speak out,” said Huang, who said besides the virus, many workers have had to deal during the past year at work with “a skin pandemic” of energy-sapping racism that is mentally and emotionally taxing.
“Sometimes, the injuries we bear are not just physical” but mental or emotional, she said.