By John Hanrahan
Ontarians have differing views on Wal-Mart’s business practices and its corporate agenda. And although some may find the store a nice place to visit, very few would choose to work there.
The vast majority of Wal-Mart employees in Canada earn between 10 to 12 dollars an hour. Not much of a salary to raise a family on, and certainly not an income most would prefer to work for.
Tim Hudak, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, spent time as a Wal-Mart manager before entering provincial politics. It appears from Hudak’s economic platform that although he no longer works at a Wal-Mart store, he most certainly intends to run the province like one.
It may look like blue smocks and happy face buttons for everyone in Ontario. If Hudak has his way, the province may be the future low wage capital of Canada.
These American polices are designed to weaken labour rights and force downward pressure on incomes and benefits, creating a race to the bottom with respect to wages and workplace rights.
The Wal-Mart/Tim Hudak labour strategy consists of a vast majority of people making very low wages and creating huge amounts of wealth for the privileged few. In fact, according to Forbes Magazine, as a result of Wal-Mart’s low wage policies in the United States, the corporation’s founding Walton family now has more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans. That’s over 126 million people. Even more shocking is that in 2007, this number was “only” 30%.
This creates a situation that’s great for a tiny minority at the top, but lousy for workers. And what’s the problem with running Ontario by this economic model? You guessed it, most Ontarians are workers.
Hudak proposes so-called “Right to work” polices, a right-wing concept form the United States that his opponents have correctly dubbed “right to work for less.” When one takes an objective look at the economic numbers, “right to work for less” seems to far better describe Hudak’s plan. These American polices are designed to weaken labour rights and force downward pressure on incomes and benefits, creating a race to the bottom with respect to wages and workplace rights.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in American states that have these polices, the median yearly household income is a staggering $6,437 less than the national average, and not surprisingly, people are less likely to have health insurance, while poverty and infant mortality rates are 15% above the national average. These are the kinds of rights in store for Ontario workers under the Wal-Mart economy of the Hudak Conservatives.
The question is, are Ontarians ready to trade their standard of living and future economic security for the completely unproven and unsubstantiated promise of “more jobs”? (Kind of like how Free Trade Agreements and billion dollar tax cuts to corporations during the past few years were supposed to “create jobs” as well.)
I suspect the answer will be a resounding no.