(delivered by Martin Macayan on May 1st, 2022 at the Bathurst and Wilson Parkette)
Good Afternoon everyone I’m Martin, a mass member of Anakbayan Toronto, as a full-time worker I will be sharing my experiences and relating that to the struggles Filipino migrants and all workers around the world face under capitalist exploitation.
As a full-time worker, I can confidently say that minimum wage is a starvation wage. Living in Toronto is getting more difficult every year under the conditions that a majority of the working class has to face.
When I worked at a grocery store throughout the pandemic, my work was considered “essential.” As essential workers, we heard many thank yous and received praise, yet none of our needs were accommodated for. We worked every day, with the risk of catching COVID and infecting ourselves and our loved ones yet we did not receive any extra pay, benefits, safety nets, etc. We remained underpaid and overexploited by capitalist society. It was during this time that I realized the hypocrisy of the capitalist system. We were deemed essential and received praise yet if we tried to ask for safety benefits or pay raise the attitude toward us would suddenly change into hostility, we then went from “essential” to “unskilled” workers. As a worker, we were slapped in the face. Working all through the pandemic when no one else wanted to – only, in the end, to be called unskilled and told that we were unworthy of a livable wage.
Today I still work full-time in a different environment but the conditions are the same. The minimum wage and the treatment of workers are both things that have to be addressed. With rising housing costs, price gouging, and an overall higher cost of living, it is becoming increasingly difficult to live. Most of us already live paycheck to paycheck, and most of us fear eviction and starvation. We go to work every day with the risk of contracting COVID, many people go to work sick or injured because they fear missing a paycheck. Under this pressure of capitalism, the message is clear – Work and make some rich people richer or lose everything. In the Philippines, these conditions are ten to twenty times worse. During the pandemic, poverty rose to an all-time high, and astronomical rates of unemployment rose even higher. Instead of creating viable jobs back home, the government choose to export the labour, talents, and skills of Filipinos abroad. Even as we support the government with our remittances (12% of the GDP!), we (Overseas Filipino Workers) are denied the protections we need and deserve as workers both by Canada and the Philippines; and we suffer the consequences of the need to leave our country, including family separation. This is what the Labour Export Policy does! It is not a viable solution to the problems and we must end it once and for all! Jobs inside the Philippines, not outside! Further, instead of providing aid and scientific solutions for Filipinos in the midst of a global pandemic, the Duterte regime instead chose to increase policing and militarization of whom the usual targets are poor Filipinos.
The conditions as a Filipino youth worker that I continue to face did not just come out of the pandemic. These problems have been institutionalized throughout generations of policies and coercion that led to a mass amount of overseas Filipino workers. Many of our parents came here for a “better life.” But we realize what this really means is that their material conditions were not met. They may have been unable to find a decent job to support their family. Opportunities may not have been made available to them. They were most likely poor, struggling, and left to fend for themselves due to a system that prioritized their profit over their people. Our parents came here for work, to send money back home to support their families. However, in the process they were treated like second class citizens in the countries they went to, their statuses were often tied to the work they did and they were treated as disposable workers who can do the dirty jobs. This must end! We must say no to a Marcos-Duterte tandem in the election next week. Towards this goal, we who are here today are building the broadest united front. Today we hope to build a united democratic alliance of groups that are against tyranny and corruption. As a youth and full-time worker, this gives me hope. Together, we the people have the power when we work together. We have the power to make fundamental change within our society – for a better life for all Filipinos! Whatever the outcome of the election may be, when we are united, we will never be defeated!