WINDSOR - Before 2008, Les Danielski had never been unemployed. Now, the 53-year-old father of two from Ridgetown worries neither he nor his sons will ever find decent jobs in a world where hard work is no longer fairly rewarded. So he decided to occupy Windsor.
Danielski lost his job on the assembly line at International Truck and Engine in 2008 after 17 years. Before then, he said, he used to work in tourism managing restaurants and bars. “I had never been unemployed,” he told The Star. “Now I can’t even get a job pumping gas.”
After losing his job he went back to school full-time to finish his bachelor of science degree at the University of Windsor, but even being a full-time student is frustrating, he said, since tuition fees are high.
By joining the movement, he said, he hopes something will change.
“There is too much disparity between the rich and the poor,” he said. His neighbours in the farming community where he lives prefer to maintain the status quo, he said, but he’s not afraid to say what he thinks. “It’s time for the wealthy to start paying more of their fair share.”
In between classes, Danielski comes to the park in front of city hall to talk with other occupiers and with passersby. Fresh from a morning class, he said he plans to come occupy the park every day when he is in the city.
His sons, aged 17 and 20, know what he’s up to.
“They’re both hoping I get arrested,” he said with a laugh. “They’re proud of me for going and spreading awareness about it, especially because in this area, it’s not a popular point of view.”
The peaceful occupation of the park in front of city hall started on Saturday when about 150 Windsorites marched downtown spurred by the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is now more than a month old.
In downtown Windsor on Monday, nearly a dozen tents, camping chairs and picnic tables were set up under the trees in the park in front of city hall. By midday, 20 or so people were gathered in an informal meeting in the shade.
Behind them a painted sign said, “Power to the peaceful.” One with a cartoon zombie drawn on it said, “Stop the corporate zombies from devouring our world.”
Boxes of doughnuts, granola bars and muffins were set out, some of them dropped off by passersby, Katie Richardson said. Participants took care of each other, she said, sharing blankets and food.
“Maybe one day we can live in a future where people can be like this,” Richardson said.
The cost of education, the lack of adequate social services, funding for the arts and even the looming strike at the university were among the issues the participants brought up in their conversations around the tents.
“We all feel like we’ve been trampled a little bit,” the 21-year-old said, describing her reason for taking part in Occupy Windsor.
“I don’t agree with one per cent ruling 99 per cent,” she said, referring to the statistic used by the movement which suggests one per cent of the world’s wealthiest people control the remainder of the population. “A lot of us are the harder workers.”
She says it is difficult to work her job at Caesar’s (where she is a casual employee) and watch people who are already poor fritter away their money. “Giant businesses like that are perpetuating poverty,” she said.
Standing near her green tent, Richardson said she planned to sleep over in the park on Monday night after her shift ended at 8 p.m. Since Saturday, she said, she has been coming to the park in between shifts.
“My mom said, ‘When are you going to stop camping out?’ And I said, ‘When there’s a revolution.’”