Editor’s note: This interview is a personal recollection by Sandy on November 2, 2022. It has been edited for clarity. “Sandy” is a pseudonym selected by the speaker for this piece, as there are concerns about retaliation at work or from her landlord.
Sandy is a tenant at 1570 Lawrence West and an education worker in high school classrooms in Toronto. In February 2022, Pulis Investments bought the apartment building where she lives and, within weeks, issued eviction notices to a number of tenants in the building. In response, Sandy and her neighbours have organized to fight the evictions. Sandy is also one of 55,000 education workers in Ontario represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) who are now fighting for higher wages and better working conditions in the face of new strike-breaking legislation introduced by the Ford government. The Ford government announced on November 7 that it would repeal this legislation, Bill 28, within a week. This interview with Sandy was conducted on November 2.
I have worked as an education assistant (EA) going on seventeen years now, but I was only made permanent in 2019. The number one issue at work is staffing levels. The kids don’t get the support they need. If you’re missing EAs in a classroom, it is the students who suffer.
I’m working in high school classrooms, and I am responsible for working with the entire class. The government says that’s good enough. I disagree. Every class should have at least two EAs but that’s not what’s happening.
And then there’s the pay. We’re losing EAs because people have to find other jobs. They can’t make ends meet. We have been at the same rate of pay for years and there’s no way to get ahead. I have co-workers going to foodbanks. More than half my pay goes to rent every month. I have to dip into my second paycheque each month just to cover rent.
It’s discouraging, and we’re angry.
The government is completely oblivious to the work we do in the classroom. During COVID, we were the ones going into classrooms to work with special needs students when everyone else was at home. And this is the thanks we get.
So we’ve been rallying together at work to prepare for this fight. We organized a carpool to make sure everyone got to the demonstrations. We all want the same thing, and we are all on the same page. We made sure to support each other and to have the necessary conversations to stay united.
Our local president is good, she’s outspoken. If things get settled we’re good, but if not, we’re coming after Lecce.
I’ve lived at 1570 Lawrence for over five years. I used to work in the area and it was convenient for me. It’s a family-oriented building and I like my neighbours. It used to be a quiet building, but when the building was sold to the new owner, Kyle Pulis, he started trying to evict people. Then the renovation work started.
I joined my neighbours in fighting the evictions because I like where I live. Rents are sky high in this city. If we are evicted, I don’t know where else we will be able to afford to live. I don’t want to be displaced. I don’t want my neighbours to be displaced. There are elderly people living here. I have pets.
We have held rallies outside our building and in the neighbourhood to inform people in the area of what is happening to us. We rallied at the Pulis Investments office, on the sidewalk outside the landlord’s house, and at a fundraiser held by a non-profit organization where Pulis is on the board of directors.
It’s a non-profit for cancer patients. Pulis is evicting tenants who are currently receiving cancer treatments. Cancer survivors like me.
Through these actions we have made a lot more people aware of our situation. Before this, I didn’t know my neighbours as well. Now, we are united as a community that supports one another.
These fights are related. There are similarities. In our homes and in our workplaces, we need to be treated with respect. We’re not getting that. The same way that the government has been taking from EAs, the landlord is trying to take from tenants. One is a fight to hold onto our homes and one is a fight to hold on to our jobs. We’ve been protesting at the landlord’s office and home. We’re going to do the same thing with the government.