Wednesday, September 18, 2013

More On The Minimum Wage

The struggle to raise the minimum wage has been the subject of several of my recent posts. The current wage of $10.25 in Ontario is as inadequate as the $7.25 that the majority of jurisdictions in the United States pays, forcing millions to live below the poverty line even if they are working 35-40 hours per week.

Today's Star has an editorial championing an increase, perhaps not the 40% immediate increase that poverty activists are calling for in Ontario, but at least a reasonable step toward that goal.

Consider this startling fact from the editorial:

Some 534,000 Ontarians work 35 hours or more each week in fast-growing retail and service industries, earning the provincial minimum wage of $10.25 an hour. Indeed, with annual earnings under $20,000, these workers will never even crack the paltry official low-income measurement of $23,000 a year. That means a lot of people are working very hard just to remain in poverty.

While praising the Liberals for having made some progress on this file, given that the much-despised previous Harris government had frozen it at $6.85 an hour for nine years, the fact that it has been stuck at $10.25 since 2010 leads the paper to advocate the following:

The least the government should do is continue the same trend of raising the minimum wage 2.5 times faster than the rate of inflation. That would mean an increase of 13.5 per cent, to catch up since 2010. It translates into an increase of $1.40 an hour, bringing the minimum wage up to about $11.65.

That would still leave many full-time workers stuck in poverty. And it would disappoint activists pushing for an immediate increase to $14 an hour – the level that would bring earnings just above the poverty line. But it would mean a hike of almost 40 per cent, a huge burden on many businesses.

While business will always bewail and bemoan any increase that might mean having to share a little more of the profits made possible by their serfs workers, the plan seems eminently doable and a decent start on the road to a living wage that everyone deserves.


  1. Raising the minimum wage is a partial solution for setting all that "dead money" to work, Lorne. It's amazing that the idea meets so much resistance.

    1. That's why I am glad there is a paper like The Star to keep the issue in the public arena, Owen.

  2. As Stiglitz, Reich and others have chronicled, inequality is a legislated outcome which suggests the solutions must also be legislated - progressive taxation, labour organization, collective bargaining, an end to deferrals, subsidies, grants and favouritism that transfers unearned public wealth to a select few.

    The longer we wait to tackle these inequities the more difficult, even doubtful, our prospects of success.

    1. Unfortunately, as you well know, Mound, the pathetic state of our current governments would seem to preclude the remedial measures suggested. Until people realize and demand that governments need to serve the interests of the majority and not the entrenched interests of the corporate agenda, little will change.