– Janitor, Toronto
I clean the subway stations in Toronto. With the city-wide state of emergency, the instruction is for everybody to stay home. Except us. Like healthcare workers we are essential. We are the only public transit system to carry everyone in and around Toronto.
Food courts, restaurants, coffee shops and all other amenities are closed along with their bathrooms. This funnels everyone who needs to use the bathroom to the subway bathrooms. The government keeps telling everybody to stay home but if we don’t house the homeless, the subways becomes the only place where they can seek shelter.
This state of emergency is supposed to reduce crowding but the sickest, mentally and physically are all crowded in the subways now and we are having to care and clean after them. Everyday we are now facing more and more people with addiction to substance-use and mental health issues.
Why isn’t the government doing more to provide housing? They are telling us there is no place to put them. I am an immigrant too. Both my husband and I are working for close to minimum wage. We are working in this pandemic. We are fighting this pandemic. You know, we are not healthcare workers, but we are frontline and put at that level of risk everyday as we clean after vulnerable people who are at the highest risk of contracting the virus.
If people who are homeless are moving along the transit line and are high risk to having COVID-19, then the virus will never be contained. We need to be paid double what we make for the risk we are forced to take.
The focus is constantly on the economy. We are all going to lose if the government focuses on “economics” when there are no people healthy enough to work. I was a midwife back home. The economy is boosted if everyone is healthy and has access to housing.
This week I have been instructed by telehealth to stay at home because I have symptoms – I know I have paid sick days available through my collective agreement- I know my rights so I know I can fight. We must stand up together to get our demands heard. That’s the union difference.