Today is Labour Day, and while the labour movement has come a long way, there is still lots of work to do. 

As I gear up to put in my application to run in the Green Party of Ontario candidate nominations in Kingston and The Islands, I can’t help but think about how our elected representatives will look at today as an opportunity to gain support and talk about what they have done or what they will do… I get so angry when I hear politicians say that they “will” when they are already elected. 

I could talk about many issues today that shouldn’t be an issue today as the right to unionize, paid breaks, 4 day work week, just to name a few. Today I want to focus on Living Wage. There is no excuse for anyone to be paid under the poverty line. COVID-19 proved what we already knew, that we need minimum wage workers. During the pandemic, restaurant and fast-food cooks made food so people could still order it, cashiers ensured that we could pay for groceries, food, etc., workers ensured that grocery stores had stocked shelves so people could buy essential living supplies. There is no excuse why these workers shouldn’t be paid a living wage; it’s because of them that our country didn’t just stop operating. They put their health in danger for the betterment of their community. Instead of our elected officials using this day as a photo op, why don’t they introduce a living wage today so workers can earn the pay they deserve and need. 

As a part-time worker and full-time student when the pandemic first started, I was lucky to not only have the opportunity to work but also earn a living wage. I want to talk about what a living wage did for me in just two months. I was able to pay my bills, pay any essential services I needed and paid some of my tuition back as well. A living wage would allow students to go to school, pay their bills and have leftover money for tuition. A living wage would allow single parents to work and have the ability to spend more time with their kids.

The benefits of living wage don’t just make people’s lives better, but it’s also better for the economy. A living wage allows more people to stay out of debt and save more money which they can spend at local businesses. Smaller businesses are better for the local economy.

A living wage allows families to participate in the social, civic and cultural lives of their communities. They also participate in community events. We all benefit when we reduce poverty in our communities.

There are a lot of myths surrounding living wage because the 10% don’t want to share their wealth. Whether you are a capitalist or a socialist, you should support a living wage. This policy isn’t right or left. Let’s debunk these myths:

Companies will hire fewer people:

Living wage increases sales, helps employees to be more productive and reduces turnover. In fact, most of the time in places where living wage has been introduced, companies hire more people because more people are buying as they are no longer working and earning below the poverty line. 

A living wage will only help youth:

Sure it will help youth, but a significant number of low-wage workers have families. Paying a living wage will lift these families out of poverty.

The prices will just go up:

Ah yes, the 10% love this argument but it’s just wrong. Prices go up all of the time no matter what. Many companies raised the prices of items in August in Ontario and there was no wage increase. Prices will go up even if wages didn’t go up. If you stop increasing wages for 10 years, most people would be living close to or under the poverty line and the 10% would be a lot richer. Fear divides us and pits people against each other so the 10% can increase the pay gap. 

Just get a better education:

Currently, it’s next to impossible for low-wage workers to go to school and still have the money needed to care for their children effectively. Income should not decide if people can or can’t get a better education. 

As you can see, the 10% toy to divide us so they can pay employees under the poverty line and get ahead. This should be criminal to do and our government has failed low-income workers, who proved through this pandemic that they are essential workers and the country would fall apart without them.

Just think about this, if all minimum wage workers stopped working and went on strike, the country would fall apart in two weeks if not less. There would be almost no restaurants open, grocery stores, or gas stations. The ones that are able to stay open would have skyrocketing prices on everything because they know you couldn’t go anywhere else. A living wage is the honourable pay that these essential workers need. 

I wish living wage wouldn’t be an issue in the upcoming election, but every politician who is trying to gain support today should pledge to ensure that living wage will not be an issue in the next election. This should be the last Labor day where employees are paid below the poverty line unless our elected representatives are just saying that they will fight for worker rights today to boost their popularity. It’s time to introduce a living wage!

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