It’s one thing to have a job, it’s another thing to have a job that pays you enough to participate in society. Canada’s minimum wage, like most places, doesn’t match the reality of what a person needs to earn to make a living (thus people say minimum wage deserves minimum effort). Despite this unfortunate starting point, Living Wage Canada has found a way to streamline for both employers and employees what to expect an hourly minimum rate should be. As a result, the organization makes it easier for employers to be a certified living wage employer and will make it simpler for workers to know what to ask for.
The living wage movement in Canada stemmed from conversations around child poverty in the early 2010s. One major contribution to child poverty is parents who are working but still not able to make ends meet. Because of this focus on children the living wage was originally calculated for a family of four with two working parents. At the time, testing showed that the living wage rate for single parents with one child and single adults were fairly close to that of the reference family of four. However, over time, the living wage rates for these different household types have grown. The introduction of the Canada Child Benefit in 2016 by the federal government lowered living wage rates across the country. In 2019, the provincial government in Ontario introduced the CARE credit, which offers additional support to households with children.
Yesterday a wonderful little bot made a big splash during International Women’s Day (IWD). The Gender Pay Gap Bot on Twitter called out deceptive companies which “celebrated” IWD and advertised how much they care. The bot retweeted each corporate IWD tweet with a simple message revealing the median pay gap between male and female workers.
The bot is possible because the British government requires companies to publicly disclose average pay; you can see the data here. The more workers talk about pay the more likely they are to get paid better.
The idea of providing a basic income to people continues to grow. Philadelphia launches their effort to examine basic income next month. Like other research efforts into basic income it will likely show it’s better for people and cheaper than neoliberal solutions to helping low income individuals. It’s a fools game to make predictions but in the case for systems like basic income they’re easy to make.
One thing that really irks me in the conversation about basic income are the arguments that we ought to burden people with an obligation to fill out red tape. When we give money (or tax rebates) to businesses we often don’t ask them to jump through as many hurdles as we do people. Let’s change the conversation so that we support people just as easily as we support profit margins, err, businesses.
As early as March, Philadelphia will start giving up to 60 people $500 a month, for at least 12 months. Recipients will be selected from a pool of 1,100 people who have received federal support through TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, for five years. A total of $322,000 will cover the costs, drawing from existing TANF funds.
The key distinction from traditional social programs, such as TANF, said Dr. Nikia Owens, Philadelphia’s deputy executive director of family supports & basic needs, is “they don’t have to do anything extra for this money.”
Over at Popular Information they juxtapose two crimes that happened last year: the stealing of retail goods by one person valued between $200-$950 and the other crime by one corporation was the stealing of people’s money valued at $4,500,000. One got a lot of news coverage while the other did not. Walgreens kept their worker’s money by committing wage theft, a crime an employer can commit by not paying overtime, having workers work “off the clock”, misclassifying employee pay scales, or through other means.
We should be more concerned with the stealing of wages than the petty from of stealing consumer goods. In the USA alone wage theft is a 15 billion dollar problem (yes you read that right), and according to the FBI it’s more than the value of all stolen goods in property crimes.
A good way to not be a victim of wage theft is simply to talk to your coworkers about how much you earn for the work you do.
Just a few months earlier, in November 2020, Walgreens paid a $4.5 million settlement to resolve a class-action lawsuit alleging that it stole wages from thousands of its employees in California between 2010 and 2017. The lawsuit alleged that Walgreens “rounded down employees’ hours on their timecards, required employees to pass through security checks before and after their shift without compensating them for time worked, and failed to pay premium wages to employees who were denied legally required meal breaks.”
Walgreens’ settlement includes attorney’s fees and other penalties, but $2,830,000 went to Walgreens employees to compensate them for the wages that the company had stolen. And, because it is a settlement, that amount represents a small fraction of the total liability. According to the order approving the settlement, it represents “approximately 22% of the potential damages.”
Raising the minimum wage helps you no matter how much you earn. The next time the debate about whether or not your region of the world should raise wages you ought to argue for rating wages. The only downside of getting paid more is that…well, nothing really. Don’t believe the lies that raising minimum wage increases leads to job losses because there’s no evidence that that is the case.
Economist Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who is perhaps the leading expert on the economic impact of the minimum wage, and his co-authors Doruk Cengiz (also at UMass), Attila Lindner of University College London, and Ben Zipperer of the Economic Policy Institute conducted the study. They used detailed data and advanced statistical methods to parse the effects of minimum-wage increases on low-skilled workersâ€”including those making at or around the minimum wageâ€”as well as on high-skilled workers and the economy as a whole.
The study finds that minimum-wage increases occurring over more than three-and-a-half decades resulted in higher wages for low-skilled workers, with no reduction in low-wage employment five years out. This was true overall, and separately for younger workers, less educated workers, and minorities. Low-wage workers saw a wage gain of 7 percent after an increase in the minimum wage.