On April 15th, the Kamloops District Labour Council, workers, students, progressive political parties, and concerned citizens in Kamloops, join the national call for a $15 minimum wage.
Around 40 people rallied at the North Shore transit exchange to demand that anyone who works full time should be able to live above the poverty line.
This national day of action is the first of its kind in Canada ad follows a groundswell movement to a $15 minimum wage that is sweeping across North America — Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco prompted a commitment from the entire state of California, as well as New York and the province of Alberta.
But here in British Columbia the minimum wage is the lowest in the country at $10.45. The only long term commitment by the BC Liberals ties any future increase to inflation. Where Alberta will reach $15 in 2018, at this rate, BC will not reach it until 2034.
This low rate means a full time worker will make $6,000 below the poverty line, despite working as hard and diligently as higher waged workers, and with no prospects of improvement in their situation unless they are able to secure better work.
However, the statistics of low wage workers paints a picture of a huge portion of the population that likely will be in the same low wage situation for the long term.
Over half of a million people earn less than $15 an hour in BC— that’s one-quarter of all working people.
Eighty-two per cent are 20 or older. These are students drowning in debt load and studying full time, and young people in precarious work trying to stand on their own 2 feet.
Nearly two-thirds are women, many unable to access affordable, quality childcare, which may explain why we have amongst the worst child poverty rates in the country.
And 15,500 are over the age of 65. These are people who are forced to work because they are unable to pay for rent, food or medications otherwise.
Right winged economists decry that raising the minimum wage will hurt job creation and stall the economy. However, statistics have shown that it actually stimulates growth in local businesses and economy.
Why? When people are able to live above the poverty line, they can afford to spend every penny in their community.
Real job creation comes from people spending money in local business, not from big corporations who hide their money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.
According to a study done by the BC Federation of Labour, 83% of British Columbians agree with increasing the rate to $15. Also in agreement are 5 economists at the International Monetary Fund.
Unfortunately, the BC Liberals do not agree, citing the need to protect a delicate economy while they tout that BC has the strongest economy in the country. But how can we have the strongest economy when we have the highest cost of living, the worst wage gap, and the worst child poverty?
A strong economy is one that works for everyone and a minimum wage increase to $15 is a vital step needed to get there.