Waterloo, April 15, 2015 - The Campaign for $15 and Fairness was launched in Waterloo Region today with a small rally at Waterloo Square hosted by the Alliance Against Poverty and supported by the Waterloo Regional Labour Council.
The campaign was launched simultaneously in a dozen cities across Ontario, and joined hundreds of low-income workers across the world in demanding a $15/hour minimum wage. In addition to the minimum wage demand, the $15 and Fairness campaign in Ontario is calling on Labour Minister Kevin Flynn to strengthen and enforce the Employment Standards and Labour Relations acts to prevent employers from exploiting workers by denying them basic rights such as sick time, control over their schedules, the right to form unions without employer interference.
The Waterloo Region Record reported on the campaign launch with the article and photo below. Labour Council President Marc Xuereb was also interviewed on by Eric Drowdz on the Mid-Day Show on 570 News the next day.
Waterloo rally calls for $15 minimum wage
Waterloo Region Record
By Gordon Paul
WATERLOO — Speakers at a rally in front of Waterloo Town Square on Wednesday called for the Ontario minimum wage to be boosted to $15 an hour.
It was hiked last year from $10.25 to $11 an hour and is set to rise to $11.25 in October.
"Unfortunately, $11.25 an hour still puts the full-time worker working 40 hours a week at 17 per cent below the poverty line," Marc Xuereb, president of the Waterloo Regional Labour Council, told the rally. "That is an absolute shame.
"If somebody is working a full-time job, they should have at least the right to not have to live in poverty. Fifteen dollars an hour would raise people to 10 per cent above the poverty line."
The rally, organized by the local Alliance Against Poverty group and supported by the labour council, was part of a North American campaign to boost the minimum wage, promote full-time, permanent jobs, require businesses to give employees at least five paid sick days a year, protect workers from unjust dismissal and make it easier for employees to join unions.
In Waterloo, the 40-minute rally over the noon hour attracted about 25 people on a sunny, warm day.
Xuereb knew the rally would be small since organizing for it began just five days ago.
"We're not disappointed in the turnout, but we know we need to grow this movement because these are extremely important issues that this campaign is fighting for," he said.
"We need more people behind this to get the ear of government and to make the changes that are badly, badly needed in our society to bring fairness to workers."
Xuereb referred to a United Way study that found 41 per cent of jobs in the Toronto area are part time, temporary or contract.
"That is a huge percentage of our workforce and that percentage is growing not just in the Toronto area but across the province," he said.
"We need to reach out to people who are in those kinds of employment situations and get them to work with us. We need to share their stories and to work with them to provide meaningful and persuasive arguments to people in power to change these laws."
The Ontario government announced last year that the minimum wage will rise each year based on the cost of living. Increases are set each year on April 1 and come into effect on Oct. 1.
The popular contention that a $15 minimum wage would kill small businesses is a myth, Xuereb said in an interview.
The extra money made by workers would be spent in the community, helping businesses, he said.
"It's an economic development strategy," Xuereb said.
Brayden McNeill, a member of Alliance Against Poverty, said it's a "disgrace" that so many Ontario workers with full-time jobs live in poverty.
"The minimum wage should be a reflection of the individual's needs to live a life of dignity, not a pittance hauled grudgingly from the vast wallets of the business owners. Everyone could agree that hard-working people should be able to live a life comfortably after working eight hours a day."
Richard Walsh, the federal Green party candidate for Waterloo, said there is a big difference between a minimum wage and a living wage.
"Even $15 is far from what people need to live on," he said, adding a solution would be the Green party's proposed guaranteed livable income.
Although the general minimum wage in Ontario is $11, it's lower for students under 18 ($10.30) and workers serving alcohol ($9.55). In October, those rates rise to $10.55 and $9.80, respectively.
More information on the campaign to boost the minimum wage is at 15andfairness.org.
firstname.lastname@example.org , Twitter: @GPaulRecord
Minimum wages in select parts of Canada and the world, in Canadian dollars:
• Ontario, $11, tied with Nunavut as highest in Canada. In 2004, the Ontario rate was $6.85
• Northwest Territories, $10, the lowest in Canada, rising to $12.50 in June, the highest in Canada
• United States, $8.97
• Seattle, $18.47, highest in the U.S. The rest of Washington is $11.72
• Australia, $15.89, world's highest national rate
• Germany, $11.15
• Great Britain, $11.89
• Many countries have no minimum wage, including Switzerland. It rejected a motion last year to set it at a chart-topping $30.