Injured Workers Refuse to Be Silenced or Deterred in Fighting for Their Rights

For the 36th year injured workers gathered on June 1 at Queen's Park to forcefully put their demand that their right to full compensation when injured or made ill on the job be guaranteed. This Injured Workers' Day sees injured workers, alongside many other sectors of the society in Ontario, faced with an increasingly brutal anti-social offensive under the current government.

A spirit of determination was palpable at the rally, which this year in particular brought forward the voices and experiences of the injured workers, presenting both the successes in their organizing and the serious difficulties they face with escalating cuts by the Ford government. The speakers presented their experiences as injured workers within the perspective of how to organize to change the difficult situation faced by so many workers. A large contingent of retired General Electric workers travelled to the rally from Peterborough, and others came from Barrie, Hamilton and other areas.

During the last year, in addition to the Ford government's cuts to employer WSIB premiums, which will take badly needed funds out of the system, the guaranteed basic income pilot project was terminated and cuts were made to the funding of government bodies dealing with injury and illness prevention. A piece of legislation which would accredit certain companies to do their own inspections for health and safety, shelved due to widespread opposition, may also be brought back by the Ford government.

In addition, the recently announced cuts to Legal Aid will have serious consequences for injured workers who are more and more denied their claims and forced to appeal. Not only do the legal clinics help injured workers with their claims, one speaker said, expressing her anger at the cuts, they teach us how to fight for justice.

A Year of Organizing

ONIWG President Willie Noiles
The successful last year of organizing around the Workers' Comp Is a Right! (WCIAR) campaign found expression in a number of ways at the rally. Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups (ONIWG) President Willie Noiles focussed his remarks on the successes of the campaign, pointing out that the campaign's petition had been tabled numerous times in the Legislature, keeping the demands of the campaign in front of the MPPs. In addition, through their organizing, they have succeeded in getting a private member's bill before the Legislature to end deeming -- one of the three main demands of the WCIAR campaign. Noiles also pointed out that the pace of work has stepped up as new groups have been organized in different regions.

Janice Martell from the McIntyre Powder Project, based in Northern Ontario mining communities, announced that over the last year work had been done to bring together those who were organizing where there are occupational disease clusters to fight for just compensation. Out of this came the Allied Forces which presently includes the McIntyre Powder Project, General Electric and Ventra Plastics workers from Peterborough, Kitchener Rubber Workers and the Victims of Chemical Valley in Sarnia. They are working together to enforce their demands for compensation, while they keep the specificity of their local organizing. Martell said the name came from the Allied Forces in World War II who together were able to defeat a formidable enemy.

Martell spoke about the difficulty workers faced in being compensated for occupational illnesses whose symptoms often appear years later, when companies have closed plants or workers retired. "WSIB has the power to grant our right to fair compensation or to deny our right to fair compensation and with each denial comes a multitude of other denials. You deny us our dignity, the acknowledgement that our years of exposure to multiple toxins is significantly responsible for our sickness. You deny us our right to know how many others in the same workplaces, exposed to the same toxins, are suffering the same diseases. You deny us the opinions of our physicians and substitute the opinions of your hired guns. You deny the evidence that we hold in our bodies, that we live with, rally against, and die from in numbers that defy your decisions to deny. You deny us the peace of dying with the knowledge that our families will be taken care of by the fair compensation which we were promised.

"Your power to deny us is vast. It overwhelms us. It angers us. It leaves us without hope, without justice, without help or the financial means to fight back. Yet here we are. All of us gathered here together in defiance of your power. [...] We deny you our silence -- you will hear our voices. We deny you the comfort of our anonymity -- you will see our faces, you will know our stories, our struggles, our suffering. We deny you our isolation -- we will find one another, we will gather, we will organize, we will stand together, we will fight back. We deny you your narrative. We will expose you and challenge your power to deny."

The rally included a number of cultural performances, including the songs "Oh What a Journey, Oh What a Load" and "We Will Rise" by the Justice Singers, and a skit "We Are the People" which rejected the Ford governments' sloganeering that it speaks for the people -- saying that we are the people and will speak for ourselves. A moving spoken word piece closed out the program.


A tornado warning could not keep Injured Workers' Day from being marked in Windsor. A number of activists for injured workers' gathered at the WSIB offices to demand reforms to WSIB regulations which favour the workers.

The following day activists for injured workers, representatives of the Windsor and District Labour Council, and activists of the MLPC distributed over 1,000 flyers at Art in the Park in Windsor. The flyers were well received by the public with many people stopping to chat on their way into or out of the park.

This was the first time such a mass action had taken place on Injured Workers' Day and plans are in the works for similar mass distributions in future years.

Injured Workers' Day Actions in London and Thunder Bay


Thunder Bay

(Photos: WF, ONIWG, P. Stacho, Occupy WSIB, M. Jee, S. Mantle)

This article was published in

Number 21 - June 6, 2019

Article Link:
Injured Workers Refuse to Be Silenced or Deterred in Fighting for Their Rights


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