Discrimination of any form is condemnable and tolerating it can only silence the marginalized voices.
Dear community members, we kindly ask you to take a few minutes to read some serious concerns Tamil members have about the Workers Action Centre (WAC) which is affecting us and our Tamil community in Scarborough (Toronto).
Workers Action Centre is a member-run organization, which works for marginalized workers in need. Tamil workers are close to 50% of their membership and they contributed and built the Workers Action Centre from the beginning. WAC did not respect our contribution and hard work that build WAC.
WAC is treating Tamil members differently and discriminating us. Many of us have been part of the centre for years and contributed a lot to build the centre.
There are many Tamil members, Tamil board members and Tamil staff who worked hard and contributed to build the center, who are discriminated in a similar pattern and pushed out, which is very concerning.
1. WAC’s systematic discrimination towards Tamil members.
- Tamil members’ concerns are always ignored and placed at the bottom of the Agenda.
- Tamil committee consisting of 40 members was erased, some of whom are founding-members of WAC.
- Tamil staff who represented us was pushed out from her job for raising questions about the discrimination, for demanding equal treatment for all members and for forwarding our request to have WAC services in our neighbourhood.
- Two Tamil board members were pushed out for challenging the discrimination and the process that only helped the WAC staff.
- All Tamil members who wanted to run for the board, to be part of the decision making, were dismissed even before the process of Annual General Meeting (AGM).
- Tamil workers who went to the centre seeking help were blocked and treated different than other workers.
- All Tamil members’ concerns in the steering committee were cut off and ignored by the Staff, while other community members were given chances to speak.
2. WAC’s Response:
* Ignored and blocked all the ways to address our concerns.
(Each time we tried to raise our concerns in meetings, we were cut off and put off at the end of the agenda. Even we were blocked from bringing our concerns to the AGM using the very by-law that WAC did not even follow. For the past seven months, they ignored, made us run around, and did not want to discuss the real concerns in good faith, but they are only pretending to listen to our concerns for documentation purposes only) As they never want to bring the discriminating staff to table and solve this issue faithfully.
3. What do we, Tamil members Want:
- We want justice.
- We want the discriminating staff to be present at the table to really resolve issues in a faithful and fair way and not hide the serious issues and use this meeting as a documentation process, as WAC did in the past.
- We want changes at WAC that could be benefiting the Centre and to be a true member run organization.
- We want representation in the centre from staff to board level.
As concerned individuals, please send a letter to WAC addressing this serious concern.
Please look at this blog or the following facebook group for more information and recent news:
Workers’ Action Centre Contact Information:
720 Spadina Avenue, Suite 223
Toronto ON M5S 2T9
Tel: (416) 531-0778 Fax:
Tell them you will not accept discrimination.
Tell them to sit down with the people who are directly involved in the discrimination to address this issue and bring justice to light immediately.
Discrimination of any form is condemnable and tolerating it can only silence the voiceless people.
P.S. please fwd this to the socially conscious and concerned friends and avoid SPAM by not fwding to people who do not care.
Thank you in advance for your support.
[April 25, 2009, on WAC's illegal AGM Day]
NEED A FAIR TREATMENT AT THE WORKERS ACTION CENTRE!
STOP Treating us as “ 2nd class members”!
STOP ignoring our concerns!
STOP using us as your puppets!
STOP using WAC for your personal gain!
STOP discriminating Tamil members!
STOP discriminating Immigrant workers!
The current By-Law is not binding as it is written to control members by WAC management and its friends. The By-Law is not translated, so the members who have language barriers cannot understand and give their consent with full understanding. Thus, it is invalid, especially when there is a high percentage of members who do not understand English . Even if we follow this By-law, you are not following the process. As per Article 2, section 2.6: …Individuals must submit a new membership application form each year. Board or the WAC Management did not follow it, you just called members to renew their membership over the phone, who gave you this permission, when was this change made? Any changes to the By-Law has to be informed and approved by the members, which never happened and therefore membership is invalid. Hence, You CANNOT run this AGM!!! This is an illegal Meeting and if you continue we will report and take action by informing the Industry Canada.
If we cannot speak or raise our concerns at the AGM.
This is not a MEMBER RUN Organization!
Our Stories of WAC’s Ill-treatment:
WAC Member Since 1999.
I have been involved with WAC over 8 years. I was always part of the Tamil committee as I had language barrier and feel comfortable discussing in and being part of the Tamil committee.
I was one of the first members of WAC and contributed in many different level and actions. I did so much outreach to people during WAC work in the beginning and Ontario Workers Need a fair deal in Scarborough and all ways. I always told Regi and other WAC staff that I like to be part on the activities that happens in Scarborough as I cannot travel so far over 3.5 hours to come to the meetings in downtown.
Each Staff of WAC know me as some one who is very involved in many WAC activities. I was even in the steering committee of WAC in the beginning before the Board was formed. I enjoy and wanted to contribute to WAC’s work as some one who had faced many work problem and been discriminated due to my language and age. Even I spoke out to media and the government. When Regi went on leave, I did not get any mail or invitation about WAC activities for over 7 months. After Regi Returned I was called for an Action. I asked her why I was not invited. I found out that WAC has erased the Tamil committee list; therefore, I did not get any invitations. I am very upset and angry. How can WAC forget me? Let alone Erase me? Why has WAC staff forgotten me? Don’t tell me I did not register as member. I did. You have used me over 8 years in media, MPP visit outreach planning and so on. Don’t tell me only Regi knows my work and interest. Don’t tell me you don’t like Tamil people and/or the Tamil committee. Don’t tell me this is a mistake. Where is the responsibility? Where is the respect for all my volunteer work? Where is WAC’s belief? Why only Tamil members had been erased completely from the system and not invited to the events? Why you did not check with us before you erased Tamil committee which is very active in Scarborough? I saw this kind of a treatment in factories BUT I am very disappointed and sad to see this is happing at WAC. I need answers not excuses. I need equal treatment not questions. We gave so much of our volunteer time to get better respectful working condition for workers like us, not to use and throw for your power. By erasing our faces, don’t erase WAC’s history.
I lost my house. I lost my job. I do not know any one who can help me and speak Tamil. My building manger asked me to leave my apartment by 4pm that day. The face that I remembered is Regi and WAC that can help me. I called WAC but no answer. I ran to WAC office from Scarborough with fear of being on the road with my 6 years old daughter. Regi was not there. Karen refused to talk to me and even stop Milan from listening to me. She wanted me to come to the clinic which is a week later. I try to explain to her my urgent situation. She is not ready to listen or understands. I saw Milan argue and 2nd day Regi told Karan “ if you can not help him let me know I will”. After Regi’s and Milan’s pressure she helped me; 5 minutes of her time saved me from being on the road. The building management gave me 15 days notice to vacate the apartment. Again I wanted to apply for EI online so we have some income to feed our children and wanted Milan to help me with this; Karen again refused and physically blocked Milan from helping me. After Milan’s pressuring she let Milan help me. I am happy that WAC helped me in this urgent situation but if Milan or Regi were not there, I will be on the road with my family. Thanks to them. I am very disappointed to see the treatment and unwillingness to understand our(a worker’s) situation at WAC (who claim to stand up for Worker’s Right).
We are not 2nd class members: We have contributed and participated in building the centre. We will not go away until we see equal treatment and our voice and concerns are heard and bring our centre back to its mission.
DON’T ERASE THE HISTORY!!!
Our Stories of WAC’s Ill-treatment:
WAC member since 1999
Even though, I was a member from the first day at WAC, I was erased from the Tamil committee and treated, as I am no one. I am very upset and hurt that my commitment and work is not respected. I asked Sonia why I was not on the list, Sonia told me that she would get back to me on this matter on October 15th meeting. (Please look at your own minutes) but never got back to me nor given answers for almost over 6 months. Karen called 2nd week in April after I left message to renew my membership. She said I was not a member and cannot vote on 2009 AGM because I was not in their system. I told her that “this is not my problem. You erased me and eliminated me” I have volunteered at the centre since WAC begin and even worked as temporary staff in 2002. Every one at WAC knows me. Why I was erased, why no one had responded even after I questioned in a meeting in Scarborough and asked her “if you are trying to eliminate all Tamils” She told me that she would get back to me. After few days, Karen called me and told me that I am a member now!
I have some questions to the WAC Staff including the WAC board:
After 8 years of involvement as member, board member, Tamil committee member and former staff, Why was I erased and not informed or invited to any events for over 7 months while Regi was on Leave? Why do I have to fight to be respected and acknowledge my true contribution and involvement and basic rights as member? I know that there are many other members who did not contact WAC, but are missed out like me. Why only Tamils??? IF Regi is there she would have taken care because she respect and treat all the workers equally. After long fight and many questions, I was able to get back as member. Sonia called me today, April, 23, 2009, to apologize. Who has decided now? When you erase our involvement, names, and forget our faces, this carelessness is unacceptable. How do you justify this? As an organization, where is your responsibility? Where is your equal treatment? SHAME ON WAC!
An Active Tamil Member, former staff and Board Member, who QUIT.
“I had to leave WAC’s board for my own sanity & conscience. Continuing on the board meant supporting a process and system that was unfair and discriminatory to my eyes. I had expressed this when I met with the board and with the administration, but they always have justifications for everything. I realized that being on the board meant nothing. The decisions were more often made by admin than the board. so what’s the point? Anyway, I don’t know where this is going to go. They did some sort of investigation and I never heard back from the investigator although I emailed and asked. Have the members been told anything more?”
“ Shame on WAC Management for asking me if I have language skills to be eligible to run for board. I am the marginalized worker to talk about in the public to get funding.”
SHAME ON WAC MANAGEMENT!!
After involving in many activities of WAC for over 5 years, WAC board nominating committee tells me that I’ve been eliminated before the election. I don’t know why Sonia( who is a staff at WAC) was part of the interviewing process. Although my ‘experience was commendable’, I am not surprised with the elimination. I was asked irrelevant questions and followed a different process compared last year ( where I was asked to just give my name for the nomination by Brenda).
If, in fact, you truly care about the members and the centre, then terminate all board members and let the members elect directly from the floor and change the By-Law that would really represent a worker run organization without your personal controls and using us as puppets.
Our Stories of WAC’s Ill-treatment:
I have been an active member of WAC for over two years, I have been part of Scarborough organizing committee, steering committee and also the AGM planning committee. I’ve proposed and been part of the change made in the By-Law, motion #5 at the January 2008 AGM meeting. This change was suggested by me for it would benefit the centre for there is a lot of changes need to be made in the current By-law. Furthermore, I felt that even this year I would be able to contribute more to the centre. Hence, I gave my name for nomination right away when I received the letter from WAC asking for people interested in running for Board. However, I have not heard from the board till a week before the board meeting, giving 48 hours short notice to meet one of the nominating committee member, two days later. Unfortunately, due to an urgent situation I was out of town and informed Zainab T. Also, I informed that I would be available for an interview three days in the following week. BUT I was informed that I could not be selected, for I was not able to meet them during the WAC’s schedule date and time. I am disappointed to see that WAC could not understand the worker’s struggle in our day to day life and the urgency in the Tamil community that is happening now. I strongly and clearly see this as an open discrimination because the WAC staff and board does not want to see Tamil members being elected for the board. Its confirmed and very clear, that this process is just there to control the Tamil members, for last year this process did not happen and people even got selected over the phone. This year each and every tamil member that ran for the board has been eliminated even before the election. We have been given different reasons for being eliminated, one of it being lack of experience: if we, who have contributed for a long time, been part of the WAC’s work and been part of making changes, don’t have enough experience then WHO DOES??
I have some serious concerns to raise:
Does the the current board members except Lucya have been actively part of WAC’s activities and know about their day to day work? How can the board make the right decision for the centre, when they don’t know anything about its work nor its members? How do they qualify to be a board member? Is this the way to run a member run organization?
You say Regi is a hard and dedicated worker. However, you did not inform us of her award and did not use the skills that she has learned that could have benefited the centre. You’ve put pressure and forced her to leave by treating her different and when we, as members, inquired about her, you said it was private and is being investigated. But when we asked to see the Investigation Report, we were told its private. However, reading Regi’s response, it is neither private nor personal; what was raised by Regi is member’s issue and will benefit the centre. As members, we have the right to know what is happening, as it affects the centre and it involves all of us. Further more, it is a great loss for the WAC and its members to lose such hard worker as Regi, who contributed to building the centre. You will not replace such a person and not have so far replaced for over five months. Though the need is obviously there from WAC’s members. This shows how much you care about the Tamil Community.
If in fact, you truly care about the members and the centre, then terminate all board members and let the members elect directly from the floor and change the By-Law that would really represent a worker run organization without your personal controls and using us as puppets.
From all your actions, it is very clear how you want to control for your own power and do not care about the members or the centre’s future. Even after you’ve discriminated us and dismissed our concerns, we are still talking to you because we care about the centre BUT we cannot continue to let you discriminate us.
Therefore, you leave us with no choice but to take it to the public and the funders who’ll listen to us.
Through WAC, we have published our stories to tell people what happened to us in our work places. The government and even the bad employers have tried to fix and treat us with some respect. BUT WAC staff and some board members have failed to treat its members with equal treatment and protect the Centre’s goals. We were targeted for speaking out and suppressed. You leave us with no choice but to take it to the public and the funders who’ll listen to us.
Now we understand why Regi raised and recommended all the changes and why it is important for the changes to be implemented right away.