A glimmer of hope for minimum wage

I started working pretty much as soon as I was legally able after realizing that because my parents were paying for my living costs, I could save money pretty quickly. Minimum wage at the time was $6.40 per hour for youth (I was 14). One of my jobs, dishwashing in the cafeteria of a fancy ski resort in Grey County, paid a little more than minimum.

Chris Rock did a bit on Saturday Night Live that stuck with me then and I immediately thought about it today while taking in the news of the minimum wage legislation that was passed this week in Ontario.

The Workers’ Action Centre has done a great job lobbying with its heart and soul on this issue through its raise the wage campaign.

“I used to work at McDonald’s making minimum wage. Do you know what it means when somebody pays you minimum? Do you know what your boss is trying to say? “Hey, if I could pay you less, I would! But it’s against the law.””

I always found it darkly hilarious because it’s true. Workers have to fight for what they earn because when it’s left up to employers, wages go down in terms of spending power.

One of the best changes to minimum wage in the province, in my opinion, is that it’s now tied to inflation. Political gridlock is so hard to break through that it has taken of lobbying for the most modest of increases. Now that the government has legislated a yearly increase tied to inflation, I hope the horrible pressures put on people earning the minimum will be somewhat alleviated.

I’ve been incredibly privileged and have earned steadily increasing wages since my teenage years. However we know now that in our modern economy, grown women and men are forced to support their families on minimum wage. This is a problem, for instance, in the food service industry---also one of the biggest industries in the country.

This issue---minimum wage, poverty, precarious work---is not going away. While the latest minimum wage legislation is a great start, we must keep fighting for a living wage for all workers in this province.


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