From CCU President Kelly Johnson
On behalf of the Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU), the largest affiliation of independent unions in the country, I am urging you to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Since the early 1970s, the CCU has advocated for increases in the minimum wage and the establishment of a living wage for all working Canadians.
With the current COVID crisis, over 1.5 million Canadians working for the minimum wage are in serious threat of falling further into poverty and debt. Even with the financial supports from the government’s COVID Economic Response Plan, it won’t be enough to stop the downward slide of these workers – as well as the large number of Canadians making slightly higher than minimum wage – into destitution.
Now’s the time to move on this issue and ensure that low-wage workers earning less than $15 per hour won’t be left behind. Most minimum wage workers have waited long enough.
During the past three years, the province of Alberta has raised their minimum wage to $15 per hour, and British Columbia is set to increase theirs to $15.20 per hour in June 2021. Even the Conservative government of Ontario has set their minimum wage to increase to $14.25 per hour on October 1 of this year.
Going back well over a century, the business community has always claimed that massive layoffs, closures and economic disaster would be caused by any effort to improve the conditions of working people, whether it was abolishing child labour, the right to strike, establishing the forty hour workweek, health and safety standards, guaranteeing women equal pay with men, or employment equity.
And as we know, these doom and gloom scenarios were utterly unfounded.
The vast majority of research illustrates that responsible increases in the minimum wage have minimal effect on unemployment rates, but a big impact on the lives of low income workers. That’s because they have a positive effect on consumption, since minimum wage earners spend more of their disposable income into the local economy.
Businesses don’t create jobs when wages are lower. They create jobs when they have customers at their front door, and the single best way of doing this is ensuring that modest-income and working class consumers have more money in their pocket to spend.
Increases in the minimum wage will also have a positive effect on fighting the staggering levels of economic and income inequality, which are a threat to both economic stability and our country’s proud and long-standing commitment to social justice.
Even during “normal times” before COVID, minimum wage workers already struggled to pay the rent, afford pharmaceutical medicines, put food on the table, and pay for other necessities. Now with COVID, all this has become enormously more difficult. They needed a break then, and they need an even larger one now.
The sooner you follow through on this policy, the greater the chance that other provinces throughout Canada will follow your lead in establishing a living wage as well. Once again, on behalf of independent unions throughout Canada, I urge you to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.
President, Confederation of Canadian Unions