Emboldened by Doug Ford’s electoral victory, the 1% are coming for low-wage workers. The morning after the election the Financial Post declared, “Let’s undo the damage of Wynne’s cruel and unfair minimum wage crusade.”
During the PC Leadership race, Ford said that he wanted to cancel the planned increase in minimum wage to $15/hour in January 2019. But businesses not only want to stop the planned minimum wage increase to $15, they want to roll back the $14 minimum wage that was won this year.
There are already loopholes that the Liberals failed to close in the minimum wage that make it lower for student and liquor servers, and exclude farmworkers completely. Members of Ontario’s Chamber of Commerce want to massively expand these exemptions so that even more workers are excluded and face lower pay. Cruelly, they are that minimum wage workers are not worth $14/hour, and they have unfairly targeting disabled and immigrant workers. Unfortunately, Ford’s victory will give confidence to those spouting ableism, racism and other forms of oppression, in their attempt to lower their wages and remove labour protections.
They are also using all the old arguments that raising the minimum wage causes job losses. They said the same thing in January when the $14/hour wage took effect, and as we can know, there’s been no economic meltdown. Despite the province’s own Financial Accountability Office predicting a net loss of some 50,000 jobs as a result of the increase to minimum wage, the unemployment rate actually fell to 5.5 percent in January. However, big businesses immediately rebelled by reducing hiring, cutting employee work hours, reducing benefits and charging higher prices. Tim Hortons clawed back paid breaks and little benefits that their workers had. But outpouring of support for minimum wage workers ensued because many people knew that highly profitable businesses like Tim Hortons can very well afford to pay their workers more.
Polls show that the majority of people across the province support the $15/hour minimum wage, including 40 per cent of PC voters. That’s why Doug Ford wasn’t vocal about the issues of low-wage work and Ontario’s minimum wage in his campaign. It was barely mentioned in the debates leading up to the election, and didn’t appear in Ford’s “Plan for the People” online. Instead, Ford advocated lowering income taxes as “relief”.
We saw the same contradiction in the U.S. At the same time as Donald Trump was elected, people voted to increase the minimum wage in a number of states. Mobilizations by the Fight for $15 were crucial to expose this contradiction and give people the confidence to fight against Trump. Heading into the election the Fight for $15 planned a day of action after the election regardless who won, and this became the first major action against Trump—giving confidence to other mobilizations.
The June 16 Rally for Decent Work was planned before the Ontario election, because the Fight for $15 and Fairness and the Ontario Federation of Labour knew that whoever got elected would need to be pushed to defend and extend the gains of the campaign. With Ford elected and the 1% on the offensive, June 16 will be crucial to show the support that still exists for low wage workers. Ford calls himself the “Premier of the people” but the people are clear: we want $15 and Fairness, all workers deserve it, and we are going to fight to get it.
First published on socialist.ca