As protests and attention for the Fight for $15 are gaining momentum, more people are lending their voice to support this cause.
On April 15, rallies of support were held across Canada. However, I have also seen more negative comments towards protesting workers such as "Flipping burgers isn't hard "and "Minimum pay for minimum skills."
I suppose one could argue there is some truth in those sentiments, yet I find myself strongly supporting the Fight for $15. Here's why:
1. Most important, I believe that every person who gets up and goes to work every day is entitled to make at the bare minimum, a living wage.
A working person should be able to pay for their housing, utilities, food and transportation. It is unacceptable to me that some full-time employees must make choices between the basic necessities of life or need social assistance.
Furthermore, wouldn't it be great if there was actually a little extra for 'luxuries' like furthering one's education?
2. Denigrating a person's job starts a vicious cycle of subjective hierarchy.
This attitude extends far beyond fast-food workers. We then have divisions in labour, an us vs. them mentality. I have personally heard white collar vs. blue collar comments such as office workers are nothing more than paper pushers or all tradespeople have minimal intelligence. There seems to be a consensus that most politicians are overpaid fat cats with cushy pensions and there is never a shortage of lawyer jokes.
Others complain about pampered teachers with their union salaries and summers off. Factory workers are looked down upon as doing jobs a monkey could do. However, when we get to know individual people who do these jobs we learn there is much more than the stereotypes of these jobs and of the people who do them.
I believe everyone is just doing the best they know how to provide for their families. So, instead of feeling threatened and wanting to keep others down, I believe it is beneficial to society that everyone is valued for the work they do and lifted up to at least minimum standard -- a living wage. Another's success does not equal my failure.
3. When a job isn't valued sometimes there becomes the idea that the person doing that job is less than.
This idea can breed low self-esteem and low confidence. Society may say "He's just a janitor" and soon you have a worker saying, "But I'm just a waitress." Yet without them and the jobs they perform businesses would fail, workplaces would be unpleasant. There is no shame in any job. Yet, when society and workers begin to feel a job and they themselves have no value we see the workers more susceptible to abuse and exploitation.
4. An important part of the fight for $15 is to form a union.
In Canada approximately only one third of Canadians are unionized. In the United States these numbers are even lower. The largest growing industry is the service industry. By unionizing more workers, organized labour will have a larger voice.
As most people make up labour, whether organized or unorganized, it benefits us all to have politicians in tune with the issues facing labour. Increasing the number of organized workers gives politicians the nudge they need to start representing us. Unionizing the service industry is the next logical step in expanding organized labour.
5. Finally, I find it unacceptable, even offensive that companies who report profits in the billions refuse to pay their employees a living wage nor give many of their workers full-time hours.
Instead they expect taxpayers to subsidize these workers through social assistance programs. There is however, no harm to individual citizens for these workers to receive a $15 an hour wage and a union. If anything there will be a ripple effect and other employers will have incentive to make the jobs they offer more appealing.
It makes more sense, and it is more just for employers to pay employees a wage where they do not need any social assistance, especially when these employers make large profits. Additionally, we see corporations such as McDonalds pay employees significantly higher wages in other countries without drastic increases in price for their consumers.
Since the beginning of labour, capitalists have been masters of exploiting divisions within labour. Demonizing protesters of the Fight for $15 is just the latest example. As long as we remain divided we are weaker. Hence, uniting workers, creating alliances, and promoting respect throughout all of labour is, in my opinion, key to building a healthier society.
Denise Leduc is a writer, student and activist.
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