ONIWG’s Peter Page explains why their Justice for injured Workers Legal Defence Fund was created – and how you can help its aim of protecting and restoring workers’ collective rights. And an excerpt from his “Big Book of Injured Workers” diaries eloquently speaks of the personal anguish that drives the struggle.
“The Legal Defence Fund is about standing up for the backbone of families in Ontario, the people we love – who love us. Men and women who are injured or made sick at work aren’t statistics. They have names, hopes and dreams, people relying on them. And the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is turning their back on all of that. On them and on you. It’s not right, it’s not just, it’s not even legal.
There is strength in numbers. It’s takes a lot of people — determined, hardworking, brave — to stand up to the WSIB. They have resources. They have the ear of the government. We can have that too – but only with your help. And more.” … (see website for how more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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(Excerpt from Peter Page’s “Big Book of Injured Workers” Diaries, April 28 2015, Woodbridge)
The morning was warming up and the predicted 18 degrees Celsius temperature was well on its way pass that predicted temperature. Once again the previous nervous energy and apprehension reared itself as I watched the crowd gathering for the ceremony. Orlando grabbed his June 1st flyers and I my “Big Book of Injured Workers”. Here was my audience for the launch of the book, injured workers, labour activist, and politicians. As we walked towards the Day of Mourning Monument I noticed an older couple sitting alone not mingling, just sitting waiting for the ceremony to begin. I wondered who they could be.
Orlando introduced me to Enzo Mancuso the organizer of the event and he put me on the speakers list. I explained to Enzo the purpose of the “Big Book of Injured Workers” and to my relief it was welcomed as a good idea. I guess I should explain what the “Big Book of Injured Workers” is all about. You see about three years previous I had begun the planting the seed of my idea and it slowly began to germinate and grow into this big book. Inside the book were just some lines for people to sign on and give their age and date of injury. The book would hold some 12,000 names and I hoped to fill it with the names of anyone who supported a compensation system that adhered to its 100 year old mandate of justice and fairness to all. The book was to be a symbolic prop used to show the many workers injured each year in Ontario as each name represented a vote and politicians love votes.
As for the couple I had observed sitting alone, Enzo pointed out to Orlando and I that they were the parents of a young man who had fallen to his death earlier in the year. Suddenly the purpose of my “Big Book of Injured Workers” became clear; I was about to ask two grieving parents to sign my book so that I might use their grief as a political tool to sway political opinion. My previous self pity of how my book would be received was replaced with a sense of guilt and shame as I approached the grieving parents. How could I have the audacity to ask such a thing from these two grieving parents as their hearts still not healed and torn by this tragedy? Orlando introduced himself as I struggled to get the courage up to ask for their signature, for you see I felt as though I was taking something away from them, something they might not want to share.
After offering condolences to the parents I tried to suppress the giant swelling of my heart that was entering my throat and threatening to silence me. I began to explain the purpose of the “Big Book of Injured Workers” and would they honour me by signing the book. A physical act by them that no doubt opened the fresh wound just a little more and reminded them of their loss. They graciously signed the book and I asked if they had grandchildren and the father nodded and said they had two, two children that they would need to help through the lost of their father. Their signatures suddenly made this book more than just a prop or tool for political action but a book that represented the heart wrenching pain and tragedy that is a workplace accident or death.
I delivered my speech and introduced the “Big Book of Injured Workers” which was well received and many people approached and signed the book. One lady who was the widow of a worker killed some 20 years before, leaving her to raise her then six year old daughter alone. Another injured worker in his eightieth year who was injured in the 1980s all signed and seemed to understand the purpose of the “Big Book of Injured Workers”.
As I move forward with my “Big Book of Injured Workers” I will never again observe a moment of silence or attend a Day of Mourning ceremony without thinking of those two parents sitting alone on a warm spring day grieving the loss of a love one.