Hotel worker Nym Calvez (right) is interviewed by CBC’s Rosemary Barton on May 13, 2020. (CBC screen shot)
Updated: May 22, 2020, 6 P.M.
Bakit ang kapwa pa ang tinutulisok at pinagbibintangan?
(With files by Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas in Vancouver and Ysh Cabana in Toronto)
A CBC interview on the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on workers lives has gone viral after a Filipina hotel worker talked about her concerns.
Vancouver hotel worker Nym Calvez has now taken off her Facebook Page after being subjected to vicious comments after the CBC’s ‘Town Hall on the Covid’ episode on May 13, 2020.
The 35-year old from Surrey, B.C. figured prominently in last September’s 2019 hotel workers strike in Vancouver and was interviewed by a YouTube blogger, a Ron Galvez, on the sidelines of the strike.
The strike which lasted several weeks crippled some of Vancouver’s largest hotels including the HyattRegency,WestinBayshore, Pinnacle Harbourfront and Hotel Georgia.The workers won a historic new contract when the strike finally came to an end on October 16, 2019 including salary raises of 25%. A number of Filipino workers are employed by these hotels.
Nym Calvez (far right) shown here during a rally to publicize hotel workers’ sexual harassment complaints on July 23, 2019. UNITE HERE Local 40 president Zailda Chan is on the left.(Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Ironically, Covid has gutted the hotel industry today, resulting in the lay-offs of 90% of workers according to UNITE HERE.
Nym Calvez is one of them.
When CBC contacted the union for someone they can put on the show about Covid, Calvez was recommended, according to a union spokesperson.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
Asked by CBC’s Rosemary Barton on how the $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is affecting her and other workers, she responded it was “not much”. She explained that in the short-term, it is OK, but was worried about the long-term when they could not go back to work because of hotel closures.
“The living expenses in Vancouver alone is very expensive. From $2,000 my rent is almost $1,500,. $500 is what’s left for food and groceries, That’s nothing,” said Calvez, who also sends money to her family in the Philippines every month. “I am using other resources like credit card to stay afloat,“ she told Barton.
Barton then put her to ask Finance Minister Bill Morneau what the government’s long -term plans to support workers in tourism were.
“The best we can do is to support people now and to enable businesses to keep having optimism, having opportunities down the road so that if Nym doesn’t have a role in the business she’s in right now, there might be another role that she might be able to get because we’ve helped many businesses to bridge through this time,” Morneau responded.
Since March, the 16-week CERB is paying $2,000 a month to millions of eligible recipients. It is a Canadian government program aimed at getting money out quickly to those who need it. It doesn’t account for pre-pandemic incomes or regional cost of living and isn’t designed to manage a long-term economic recovery. CERB income is taxable for 2020.
Over 7.3 million workers in Canada have now received the CERB, and another 1.7 million are still employed through Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), now extended beyond is original June expiry date.
Trolls on the attack
Immediately after the CBC episode aired, the internet went abuzz with trolls attacking Calvez, a reaction that perplexed most Filipinos including Unite Here.
The union refused to provide PCN.com with a contact number for Calvez saying “she is now very distressed at the moment.”
The union did not issue a statement condemning the attacks.
What triggered the attacks was a post by a blogger using the hashtags # Justin Trudeau # FilipinainCanada and#CANADA with a highly provocative headline posted onMay 20, 2020.
Screen shot of Youtube video.
The post begins with a clip from an interview by a Ron Galvez of Calvez on the sidelines of the hotel strike in 2019 and inserted Prime Minister Trudeau making his daily announcement’s and the Barton interview.
The average viewer without any knowledge of the 2019 hotel strike would think that Calvez was just coming from the strike, wearing as she is, the same T-shirt with the UNITE HERE logo.
A deliberate lie is the headline – ‘Filipina organized a strike in Canada’.
While Calvez is a union organizer and played a prominent role during the strike, she was not the one who organized the strike.
The other headline ‘UNGRATEFUL FILIPINA IN Canada!!! $2000 is not enough??? stoked the fires and the bullying started to roll.
Another YouTube blogger who plays by the name“Miss Turtle Lover” went into an 18-minute harangue against Calvez admonihshingher to be “thankful instead of being disappointed.”
Supporters of Calvez
Although she was viciously attacked, others have come to her defense.
One of them is Vancouver-Kingston NDP MLA Mable Elmore, the only Filipino Member of the Legislature in British Columbia.
“It’s not ungrateful to say more needs to be done to help people who are out of work or may soon be out of work. And if we don’t have brave leaders who can speak up for us when we can’t – we’re all worse off as a community,” she says.
Jeanifer Decena, who calls herself a ‘relativist’ went as far as analyzing the interview point by point.
“ Don’t judge without listening and understanding where is she coming from,” Decena, says pleading “not bash her anymore.”
“I applaud her to make a stand that help her community to move forward.”
It is not about the Filipino community as a whole. It is the hotel industry that she is fighting for. I am requesting everyone to Stop Bashing her and let’s continue to move forward,” Decena said in her Facebook Page.
Monica calls for a stop to the bashing:
“Let’s stop the bashing. Nym took a risk and spoke on national media about her situation and the situation of workers in her industry. She is raising her concerns to raise awareness and put an important question about long term solutions to people in power who are making decisions right now that will impact us all.
People can appreciate the support being given by the government but please remember that better support was fought for by opposition parties within a minority government. It was not a gift that just fell from the sky.”
(Ed’s note: In our original post, we identified Emily G. Brewer as the poster. In fact it is Jeanifer Decena.We apologize for the mistake and the confusion).