This year marks the 27th consecutive year that the United Nations has designated October 17 as a day to commit to ending global poverty. But 2020 finds humanity confronting a global pandemic and a consequent economic crisis that will see global poverty increase for the first time in 30 years. The United Nations warns that all of the gains against extreme poverty since 1990 may be reversed and that 500 million additional people may be poor by the end of this year.
Unifor demands immediate action by Canada and the global community to respond to this crisis. We are well past days of recognition and the adopting of statements to eradicate poverty. It was 31 years ago that the Canadian parliament voted unanimously to end child poverty in our country by 2000. However, Campaign 2000 reported at the outset of 2020 that 1.35 million children in Canada continue to live in poverty, with Indigenous children, racialized and immigrant children, and children in female-led single parent families disproportionately affected. And these devastating results were before the COVID crisis threw millions of Canadian workers into unemployment, with an estimated 1.5 million remaining unemployed after six months.
Unifor has responded to the new poverty crisis in Canada and globally by donating to food banks, including sending cheques to 50 food banks across Canada next month. We are also maintaining our support to more than 100 solidarity projects globally that support workers and communities fighting grinding poverty and human rights abuses.
But we must go beyond these acts of social solidarity. Poverty in Canada and globally is complex and rooted in class divisions, systemic racism and sexism. To fight poverty requires a struggle for social justice and social transformations that empower workers and people living in poverty.
Poverty is a human rights abuse that denies hundreds of millions dignity in their life and the democratic right to speak and be heard on the decisions that affect them. “The participation, knowledge, contributions and experience of people living in poverty and those left behind must be valued, respected and reflected in our efforts to build an equitable and sustainable world in which there is social and environmental justice for all,” the UN call to October 17 stated.
This October 17 Unifor recommits to the struggle to eradicate poverty. We demand that governments at all levels address poverty comprehensively with measures for
- income security
- food security
- ending homelessness
- national childcare and early childhood education
- social and health services, pharmacare and home care
- living wage minimums
Unifor commits to making the eradication of poverty a priority in its social and political campaigning and in collective bargaining for our members. We will continue to strive to be a union for everyone and to give voice, strength and solidarity to workers, their families and communities struggling to break out of the cycles of poverty and to win dignity and justice.