Previous blog posts by my esteemed colleagues have done a fantastic job of shedding light on skewed reporting and dispelling common myths surrounding the increase to the Alberta Minimum Wage. I feel it would be remiss not to shed light on the seldom considered, but equally pertinent, social and ethical components to this debate. As I’ve spent weeks poring over countless articles citing the extreme “the sky will fall!” impact this increase will have on the Alberta economy, I have been saddened to see a clear lack of support for the reporting citing social and ethical arguments in favor of the wage increase. While I expect to be very quickly categorized as a “bleeding heart”, I believe there are several sound arguments made for an increased minimum wage based on principles that, at their most simplistic level, this increase:
“…says something profound and profoundly good about the society we want to live in. That all work has dignity and worth, and people deserve a living wage.” (Dan Cantor, Working Families Party)
Mainstream media is quick to focus solely on the ‘guesstimated’ (and often poorly supported) detrimental economic impacts of this wage increase – the original intentions behind this minimum wage increase are often forgotten. In the information released regarding FAQ’s about this wage increase, the Government of Alberta directly addressed several achievements they felt a higher minimum wage would foster. Achievements such as reducing poverty, allowing low income earners to meet their basic needs, and improving the quality of life for vulnerable Albertans seem worthwhile to my bleeding-heart-human-services-ideologies. While I gather that so many other Albertans are not wooed by these sentiments, arguments such as reducing the burden on social support programs, reducing staff turnover, and increasing the spending power of low-wage earners should logically please the local economic doomsayers.
The silver lining of my research was eventually unearthing others who advocate for a minimum wage increase and are actively promoting the concept of a ‘living wage’. Two main pillars of the living wage argument are that:
” 1. It’s the right thing to do: people who work should not live in poverty. 2. It’s only fair: hard work should be rewarded with adequate pay and benefits.” (Vibrant Communities Calgary)
Sadly for those who share these sentiments, 1033 individuals from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) disagree. They are unanimously opposed to the increased minimum wage and have filed a petition stating “Stop the $15 Minimum Wage. The minimum wage hike will have a negative impact on my business & the entire Alberta economy”. While I have no desire to encroach on their right to lobby, I’m in no hurry to run out and support their businesses. If you’re also inclined to see which businesses are taking an active stance in supporting a living wage, Living Wage Canada features a list of Living Wage Employers in Alberta. Similar lists have been compiled on the Businesses for a Fair Minimum Wage site, which includes US businesses that support wage increases.
I hope that the incremental increases to the minimum wage roll out as planned from 2015-2018. It seems unlikely that robots will take over my job, but sure…I’ll pay a little more for my morning coffee.
“At the government’s consultation on minimum wage in June, one person asked who will be serving the coffee if the minimum wage goes up substantially. I think the answer is clear and reasonable: very likely the same people will be serving the coffee – but at a much more reasonable wage, and probably with a higher price for coffee for the rest of us. That seems more fair in general.” (Larry Booi, President of Public Interest Alberta)