Tag Archives: living wage

Don’t Tolerate Ignorance About the Minimum Wage

Now, stop tolerating ignorance! And smile, TGIF.


It’s Friday.

For many people it’s TGIF. But for many people who aren’t even teenagers, the work week isn’t ending today.

We often THINK minimum wage is for the new entries to the job market. Maybe it was one day. Maybe just for one day.

But today? If it isn’t a living wage, it’s exploitative.

And if it is just minimum wage, we are likely not too accurate on who is suffering with these low wages.

Let’s take a peek:

Continue reading Don’t Tolerate Ignorance About the Minimum Wage

Ikea’s Union-Busting Lockout in Richmond, BC Reaches Two Months

Is Walmart Ikea's labour relations mentor?
Is Walmart Ikea’s labour relations mentor?

Ikea, that family-friendly darling of home decor and Swedish innocence is trying to break its union, Teamsters Local 213.

They have locked out their Richmond, BC workers for two months now, while deciding to bargain in reverse: Start with a pathetic offer, then as time goes by, if locked out workers don’t come back, the concessions and contract stripping INCREASE!

By the way, Ikea’s 2011 profit was $3.85 billion. Profit, not revenue. Again, not enough money for the family-owned company! Its founder is worth $52 billion.

Tia reviewed Ikea’s anti-social shenanigans when the lockout hit Day 17. Her piece detailed some of the issues and helped us understand what we can do to help the workers while Ikea tries to smash their union here, before likely taking on their only other unionized store in Canada, in Montreal. This lockout is also an attempt to undermine other union organizing drives, despite the 70% unionization rate of Ikea workers in Sweden.

One thing we can do is to boycott every Ikea in the world, particularly the ones in Richmond and Coquitlam. We can also Occupy Ikea at a rally on July 20 at 11am. Here’s a poster for the rally.

And here are a few other things we should keep in mind.

  1. The BC minimum wage is $10.25/hour, but less if you get tips on the job, minimum wage is $9/hour. This increase in 2012 came after the minimum wage was frozen at $8 for a decade under the business-friendly government.
  2. The living wage in Vancouver is, however, $19.62.
  3. In Washington, DC, the city council passed a living wage by-law [see below] DESPITE Walmart [Ikea’s labour relations mentor] threatening to cancel 3 stores planned for the area.

Should the bill be signed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and pass a congressional review period, retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger would be required to pay employees no less than $12.50 an hour. The city’s minimum wage is $8.25, a dollar higher than the federal minimum wage.

via D.C. Council approves ‘living wage’ bill over Wal-Mart ultimatum – The Washington Post.

If Washington, DC can face down Walmart threats to support a living wage, we should be proud of them and stand up for worker solidarity internationally.

And while we’re figuring out how to fight the repression of the working class, check out this Ikea management training video:

Make (Fair Trade) Chocolate, Not War

Day three of the five-day trek through five of Global Exchange‘s 2011 campaign goals orbits the dialogue around converting free trade to fair trade after exploring how to reduce corporate control of our lives and embracing clean energy as we abandon our carbon addiction over the last two days.

Transition from free trade to Fair Trade: Despite almost ten years of commitments from Hershey’s to take responsibility for their cocoa supply chains and improve conditions for workers, significant problems persist. Hershey’s lags behind its competitors when it comes to taking responsibility for the communities from which it sources cocoa, so we’re calling on them to “Raise the Bar” and go Fair Trade. To get the word out, we’ll be spreading the message of Fair Trade to thousands of families across the country through Reverse Trick or Treating and other actions throughout the year.

As Canadian civil society groups are in Europe to confront the rapacious agenda of the Canada-European Union Free Trade Agreement this week [the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA], it is important to focus on how free trade as a paradigm is all about reducing democratic impediments to unlimited corporate growth and control. I don’t like that at all.

I don’t think corporations should decide on how to marketize bulk water or exploit Canadian tarsands. Water is essential to life and cannot be commodified. The tarsands development will sends us hurtling backwards as time is running out on averting climate breakdown. These policy choices belong to human beings. For the last quarter century, the free trade agenda has been all about ensuring human politicians abrogate our human right to decide policy for the sake of corporate decision making.

This must stop.

Neoliberal capitalism is a reboot of the origins of laissez-faire market capitalism from Adam Smith. Capitalism has only been a part of our society since 1776 when The Wealth of Nations hit the presses. Before that we had economics, markets, domestic and international trade, but it was largely governed by priorities that didn’t put corporations in the centre, with significant exceptions like the British East India Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company.

We can have trade without laissez-faire, deregulated corporate libertarianism. These days one of the most compelling movements to make trade fair is the Make Trade Fair movement, naturally, led by Oxfam. One of many fair trade movements in the world, Make Trade Fair is all about certifying that people involved in economic activity are treated with dignity and paid fairly. Often this means a whopping ten cent higher cost to a cup of boutique coffee. And by boutique, I mean ALL coffee. Small change for rich, caffeine-addicted consumers means a significant lifestyle improvement for impoverished foreign pickers.

And despite the fact that Dairy Milk is about as boring a chocolate bar that I can find anywhere, especially compared to the more expensive fair trade bars with more exotic tastes and ingredients, Cadbury has received certification that the cocoa in Dairy Milk to be fair trade. I’m buying Dairy Milks now, albeit sporadically. But before that, I’ve had a 15 year boycott of Big Chocolate.

So Global Exchange is confronting Hershey, that American icon, to live up to moral expectations.

We can do our share at Halloween and especially at Valentine’s Day next month to let our socially-conscious people know about the Dark Side of Chocolate and how buying fair trade makes a difference.

In the end, if we’ll pay a little bit more for fair trade luxury items like coffee and chocolate, that mentality should seep into all our economic transactions. No more sweatshops, only ethically sourced goods. That means doing a bit of research into how to do business in a way that respects living wages and even stopping conflict chocolate…yes, conflict chocolate, like conflict diamonds but with more caffeine.

There are more opportunities every month for us to spend our dollars ethically. If we care to do it, we need to put some effort into better consumer sourcing. And along the way, we need to fight back the free trade wave because in the end, we’re all just widgets in the economic warfare of free trade neoliberal capitalism. To be real people, we need to put our money where our ethics are.

This is the third reason why I support Global Exchange. And so should you.

Worker Bashing 101

For those people on your Christmas list who think you’re full of hot air when you complain that there has been a concerted attack on workers in the last few decades, here are a few examples of demonizing rhetoric to introduce them to, courtesy of Adrian MacNair: We don’t need no stinkin’ unions | National Post

Dalton McGuinty’s current plan to freeze public sector wages has delivered to him the same experience of previous governments that tried to cut their deficits by freezing pay. The game is playing out in much the same way, too, with the unions threatening to use extortion in order to get their raises.

Notice how 1.5 centuries of worker-fought rights to collective bargaining, the right to withhold labour in the form of a strike, is now considered to be extortion, a criminal activity.

The simple fact of the matter is that public sector union workers in Ontario are grossly overpaid as it is. It isn’t as if the government is asking to lay people off, cut salaries, or axe positions permanently. No, they’re doing none of the things that private sector workers have suffered through during the recession. All they’re asking the union to do is to hold the line on salaries for two years.

Many public sector workers are paid what is considered to be a living wage, which is higher than the serf class abundant in service sectors. They aren’t overpaid, the serfs are miserably exploited.

The solution for the abuse of private sector workers is not to make public sector unionized workers suffer, but to improve the working lives of those under the thumb of oppressive employers.

Holding the line on salaries is a pay cut if there is inflation. So when MacNair claims the government isn’t cutting salaries, they actually are with a zero raise, unless of course inflation disappears: not likely.

How about we cut 2% of the public sector every single year? And we keep cutting it until we have a $19.3 billion surplus? I think that would send the right message to the unions. Public sector salaries eat up 55% of the province’s program spending. Which means that less than half of what you spend on services are actually services.

What a clever solution: eternal pay cuts! What message would that send to union members? That they are worth less than what they are paid now. Are they really?

The salaries of a highly trained lab technician, long-term care facility practical nurse, kindergarten teacher, teen crisis counsellor, water treatment centre technician, or cardiac stent purchaser may consume 55% of program spending, but if we fire them all, the service provided is not left for us on their workstation consuming the other 45% of service costs. It is foolish to imagine that what a person brings to a service is not actually part of the service.

I find it incomprehensible that the Ontario government, with the ability to draw upon an international labour pool, the high number of unemployed, and the clear deflation in private sector salaries, would even bother trying to please the unions. If they don’t like it, fire them all. If that’s against the law, change the laws in the legislature. If that’s politically impossible, run an election on the issue. There have to be enough people who are sick and tired of the whining and complaining of the gilded class.

Fire them all? When Reagan fired the air traffic controllers, he at least had trained military personnel to stick in place.

Honestly, I do not want to know who will replace all the fired Children’s Hospital oncologists. That is simply an absurd suggestion.

And if earning a living wage is considered to be membership in the gilded class, then the consequence of this view is that workers don’t really deserve a living wage.

Further, the message here is that those who think they ought to earn a living wage are whining.

So the next time you feel paranoid, or imposing or otherwise unjustified in expressing concern for people’s working lives, remember, you aren’t to blame.

Follow the money. The rich who are getting richer are trying to shame you out of a reasonable expectation for a decent work life and living wages.

That is sick and wrong and we must make it stop.