A protest held Wednesday in front of the Tim Hortons at Victoria Road South and York Road was not intended as a boycott or a union drive, said Janice Folk-Dawson, president of the Guelph and District Labour Council.
About 20 people marched with signs in front of the 204 Victoria Rd. S. Tim Hortons at 5 p.m., one of 16 scheduled that day across Southern Ontario.
The '15 and Fairness' protests were organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour as a day of action in support of the workers in the restaurants.
The day of action was held in response to reports of some Tim Hortons franchises scaling back benefits and breaks from workers after the Jan. 1 increase of the minimum wage to $14 an hour.
Folk-Dawson said boycotting Tim Hortons, as some have called for, does not help the workers.
“We picked today to gather labour and our allies to tell Tim Hortons to take their hands off workers’ wages and benefits and to pressure the parent company, Restaurant Brands International, to make sure their franchisees are doing the right thing,” said Folk-Dawson.
Protesters handed out information pamphlets to people exiting the restaurant or going through the drive-through.
The pamphlet includes information on how employees can contact the Workers Action Centre to anonymously report on employers to what is called the ‘bad boss hotline’.
Although members of various labour unions participated in the protest, Folk-Dawson said the intention of the protest was not to act as a union membership drive and no employees were directly approached.
Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner and former federal NDP candidate Andrew Seagram also attended the action.
Folk-Dawson said the labour movement supports the rights of all workers.
“Whether they are in a union or not, the labour movement is going to be here and make sure these workers get what they deserve,” she said.
John Tartt, a member of USW Local 4120, was at the protest to stand in solidarity with the Tim Hortons employees that he said were being ‘crushed by the big guy’.
“If you saw some kid getting bullied, you would step in and do something about it. This is kind of the same thing — they’re not kids, they are adults but they don’t have the same advantages that some of us do,” said Tartt.
Donna Jennison, who held a sign that read ‘Double Double Trouble’, said she was not part of a union but participated in the protest because she wanted to stand up to what she called corporate greed.
Jennison noted the CEO of Tim Hortons brings in a salary and stock options in the millions of dollars per year.
“How much do they need? It ain’t trickling down. It’s going up and it has been for 20 years. It’s trickle up economics,” she said.
Jennison said she was disgusted when she heard reports of employees losing breaks and benefits in response to the raise in minimum wage.
“They are just grabbing more and more of the pie all the time and this is its absolute worst and ugliest form,” she said.
Folk-Dawson said the rise in minimum wage to $14 made an immediate positive effect, not only for the quality of life for the workers but for the province at large.
“That money is going right back into our local economy, so not only does it benefit that low-wage worker, it benefits everybody in our community because it’s driving the economic engine in our community,” said Folk-Dawson.
The Great White North Franchisee Association, which represents 50 per cent of Tim Hortons franchise owners, said in a new release that all franchisees have been placed in a difficult position because of the rise in minimum wage.
The release goes on to say Restaurant Brands International is not reducing costs to franchisees and is not allowing them to raise prices.
'Many of our store owners are left no alternative but to implement cost saving measures in order to survive,' said the release.
During the protest, a woman approached the organizers to ask them not to stand in the drive-through lane but she would not identify herself or speak about the action.
In a phone call made to the Tim Hortons at 204 Victoria Rd. S this afternoon, a woman who identified herself as the owner declined an opportunity to comment for this story.
Folk-Dawson said it was disappointing the restaurant’s owner chose not to speak to organizers about the protest.
“We are not clear at this point what the Tim Hortons here in Guelph is doing,” she said.