By Kevin Brice-Lall
Within 24 hours of the historic breakthrough by the Fight for $15 & Fairness campaign, where Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government conceded the largest single increase to the minimum wage in Canadian history, the employer’s offensive intensified.
Immediately the Toronto Sun lamented on their front page that the “New minimum wage effectively unionizes Ontario”. Conservative politicians who weren’t confident enough to challenge Bill 148 (legislation containing $15 minimum wage and other labour reforms) began to preach on the imminent small business extinction, and the media began a full offensive against the gains of the movement.
What’s taking place isn’t just an employer meltdown, although some are certainly melting down, but a concerted effort to shape public opinion against these gains in order to determine who’s going to pay for them.
Should poverty wages subsidize record high profits? Should the province cover the tab?
The Liberals have been pushed into legislating reforms they have no ability to defend and there is a real chance much of our hard fought gains could be at risk.
Their fairness and ours
Perhaps one of the greatest ironies is we are told by the big business lobby that we should oppose the increase because it isn’t fair.
Many of the anti-FF15 initiatives across North America have targeted workers who already earn $15/hour or slightly above who may feel that a person “flipping burgers” doesn’t deserve the same wage as them, or that it isn’t fair because they will receive no increase.
This common argument is a defensive reaction which comes from the profound sense of alienation, powerlessness and abuses all workers experience under capitalism. Karl Marx wasn’t the first to observe the fact that under capitalism workers are forced into competition with one another, obscuring common interests and keeping us divided. In our case, employers create divisions to justify whatever reprisals they have in mind to make up the lost profit–whether it’s cancelling paid lunch breaks, which are not protected by law, working fewer workers harder by cutting back on staff, or retrenching minor perks some workers in Ontario have.
How to fight back: Join us
The Fight for $15 wasn’t won because we had limitless access to the media or an army of lawyers. We won because of the rank-and-file network of community activists, labour militants, socialists, and faith groups which took this fight to nearly every corner of the province in the forms of street canvassing, strikes, and demonstrations.
While we can’t match the bosses in terms of media reach, we can still challenge those spaces. Letters to the editor, street canvassing, and most importantly equipping workers with the knowledge to have confidence to resist this offensive.
No reforms are permanent under capitalism and if we want to cement our current victory beyond the next Ontario election and expand it to include what we didn’t win, or go even further, as the victorious strikes at York and U of T showed, then we must maintain our momentum.
Over the next 6 months, 1.7 million workers will feel a 33% wage increase and they need the confidence, unity, and organization to see this fight through. After all, should the Conservatives win the upcoming election, the self-activity of these workers in defense of their interests will be the greatest bulwark in fighting back.
To help smash the employers’ offensive in its tracks please visit: http://15andfairness.org/take-action/
This article originally appeared at socialist.ca