September 12, 2015 — The Workers Action Group (WAG) expresses our support for the struggle
of the former workers of the Mugshots Bar in the Ottawa Jail Hostel (OJH) – a component of
Hostelling International. In July, 5 workers were – in our view – wrongfully dismissed and many
more were disrespected and subject to the blatant disregard for workers’ rights by management
when OJH abruptly decided to shut down Mugshots Bar.
The closure of Mugshots was a surprise to many supporters in the Ottawa community and it
came as a complete shock to all the workers who lost their jobs. We recognize and applaud the
actions of the workers who remain united in their effort to hold the OJH and specific
management accountable for their unjust actions. It appears that the OJH and their
management believed they could exploit and disrespect these workers with impunity.
The former workers at Mugshots Bar are trying to ensure that what happened to them will not
happen to other workers and WAG supports them in this effort. Capitalism relies on the ability of
employers to render workers disposable and is striving for a permanent precarious workforce to
be manipulated. Workers without living wages, saddled with student debt, without permanent
immigration status or trade union representation are rendered vulnerable and taught they have
no power to confront the exploitation they experience. What happened to the Mugshots workers
is not unique in Ottawa or elsewhere. We draw inspiration from the commitment of these
workers to realize justice in this case and hope it will serve as a lesson for other bosses who
abuse their power and an example of what is possible when workers unite to fight.
We offer our support and solidarity to these former workers as they demand that OJH heed the
entirely legitimate demands for just compensation, an apology and a commitment that this will
never happen again. We echo their call for certain Mugshots management to be fired, and for all
future OJH workers to be provided with detailed information about their basic legal rights at
work. They must also be informed as to how to and how to exercise these rights. Finally, we
support their demand for an independent third party compliance audit to be conducted and
published, verifying that the organization is respecting all basic employment standards and
health and safety legislation.