Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Minimun Wage Is Beyond Absurd

Minimum wage hike key to cutting poverty

“The government says the best route out of poverty is a job,” says Deena Ladd of the Workers’ Action Centre, a non-profit, worker-based organization. “But people working full time earning minimum wage are still having trouble paying the bills.”

“Increases to the minimum wage are the only pay raises people like Lilia Martinez ever get,” Ladd says. “That’s why it is important minimum wages reflect the cost of living.”

"Any initiative the government takes to alleviate poverty for low wage workers has to be backed up by enforcement,” Ladd adds.
Lilia Martinez is happy to clean offices, cook in a restaurant, look after children — you name it. But the 52-year-old Mexican immigrant, who has done all of these jobs, has had trouble finding a Toronto employer willing to pay her the minimum wage.
I'm all for employers obeying laws, and not violating decent principles of fair treatment (even if we disagree with the law).  I get the harsh and sad reality that people are genuinely looking to work hard and still come up short paying their bills.  There are two directions we can take this legitimate issue:

1. We can encourage this lady (and others in a similar situation) to gain skills, learn English (it's noted she struggles with English) and search for an honest employer who pays an agreed upon wage for agreed upon services.  This view is based on a 'free market being free', that this lady is responsible for her life and choices.  It suggests that she can leverage off of relationships with family, friends and faith groups/charities to help her with 'lack'.  This view does not 'lack compassion'.  This view states that compassion is directed to help an individual where there is lack by teaching/partnering with them to gain the skills required to perform well in a job.  To me, this view is compassionate. 

2.  The second view is that an individual is not responsible for their life.  The view suggests that government is responsible for 'enforcing' laws to ensure an individuals needs are met.  By teaching this lady (and others) that their source in a time of need is not personal responsibility, family, friends or faith groups/charities...but rather government, we are communicating a devaluing message to this person. Here is how:
"You don't have and/or need the skills, relationships to make it on your own.  You do not need to take personal responsibility for your life. Do not depend on family, friends or charities/faith groups.  They are not your answer.  You need the government to make and enforce laws so you can 'make it' (regardless if the free market agrees with your value/wage).  A person being 'entitled' to more then what they deserve devalues them.  It makes them a needless victim and produces the opposite affect inside the person then what the government intends with their forced policy.  By the government being their answer, people will typically continue in that pattern/cycle of dependency to have their needs met.  I argue, people are too valuable and loved to be reduced to pawns by a government administration.  I argue that people are so valuable that they are owed the opportunity to take personal responsibility, make connections with friends/family/faith groups that pick them up, dust them off and send them forward.  We need people helping us, not government agencies.  People don't like feeling like a leach or drag (this lady cites refusing welfare! Congratulations to her!) and therefore naturally recognise the pitfalls of government taxing one group to hand out to another. This messes up the free market and the very companies that pay the taxes become further strained and will simply leave or become less competitive (perpetuating our continual innovation crisis). 

I'm all for compassion to others, as like nearly every Canadian.  I happen to think someone struggling is ripped off when you lower their value to 'that of needing free handouts enforced by rule of law'.  I happen to think that is far more powerful and beneficial when a family, friend or faith groups (of their free will and spirit of generosity) invests in others by building skills and relationships: this is lasting, loving and there is encouragement, accountability and a connection of love and commitment that no government will ever think of providing with money or support groups.

I congratulate this women on her bravery, determination and willingness to work.  I would gladly take a serious look at her resume.


  1. So, I take it you don't believe in basic labour standards? You know, besides minimum wage, like health and safety standards and other working conditions?

  2. I think there are more then the two options provided. It's not a matter of everything or nothing is the individuals responsibility. The sad reality is that there is a large portion of society which is not honest. Further, the weaker (poorer) members of society are always the easiest to exploit. Moreover, all people are susceptable to corruption. I've heard more than one story of a well-intentioned person abusing their powers because there were not appropriate checks in place.

    Always appreciate your arguments. Peace.

    Logan M Runnalls

  3. I am 100% for a safe work place. Our #1 value is "health and safety"...because we as people are valuable.
    I believe companies should create the safe work place, not government.
    I respect the laws of ONtario and follow them regardless: most of the safety laws are common sense.
    I am against forced labour, as that is a violation of others rights. I am against polluting on others property, as that is against their property rights. I am not against an individual choosing to work at a place of their free will...even if the working conditions suck. If they choose to, then that's their choice. Who are we to violate another's free choice (unless it harms others)?
    Ryan Jantzi
    Hope this helps.

  4. Hey Logan,
    Love your 'checks' comments and I agree. I also think there are other options.
    I argue that the 'other options' and 'checks' ought to come from the private sector, not nanny-state do-gooders. Let the private sector rise up and bankrupt cruel unfair companies. They will do a better job then the government forcing laws to meet others needs. Ryan Jantzi

  5. First of all raising the minimum wage is not the key to ending poverty - education and training would better solve this problem. Although there is a need for minimum wage paid jobs - retail, etc. - this is certainly not a viable way to raise a family. But I also think that government does play a role in all of this - had I not had subsidized daycare for my child I would not have been able to work. Also could you explain what you mean by "nanny-state do-gooders"? Thx.

  6. Anon...
    good call on 'nanny state do gooders...
    I was flipent and am sorry.
    I should have said, "government officials".
    I could have/should have been more respectful. Was in a rush...(not excuse,,, just what happened). Regarding your point about 'gov plays a role'...I respect that point of view but do not believe the only option was for the gov to pay your way for kids...it was the option...but not the only option...I propose.

    Ryan Jantzi

  7. (perhaps in your situation, it was the only one...but if we were taxed less, i think there could have been 'charitiy options'/friend options etc...). Less taxes could have created more options. Ryan Jantzi

  8. Thanks for the interaction and the place for interaction.
    Re free market policing itself: it sounds good in theory but I don't see why or how it should work. The market respects profits not ethics.

    an anecdote:
    My brother did a fair bit of temp work when he lived in Ontario. Early on he worked for Superstore "part-time." The first three months he had 44 hours of work but when he worked long enough that he was required to get benefits at those hours he was cut back to 20 hrs so that he wouldn't get those benefits (even though he was promised full time employment when he was hired). I've had 6 other friends who have worked for Superstore who have had the exact same story.

    I stopped shopping there for one year, but I realised it made no difference and they do have the best prices.

    Logan M Runnalls

  9. Helpful article on this topic at Huffingtonpost today.



  10. Ryan - What do mean it was not the only option for the gov to subsidize my daycare - who else would do it? Friends, family -they all worked as well When I look back on those years -VERY DIFFICULT YEARS - in order for me to afford daycare - lower taxes ? No taxes at all would have been the answer. I barely made ends meet - I didn't have a car. Public transportation was my way of getting to and from work. Enough ranting - The point I am trying to make is that government has to help people because if they left it up to the private sector people wouldn't get the help they need. You are only one employer - in my 30plus years of working employers like you are few and far between.

  11. I mean this 14:42:
    1. I added the 2nd comment to try to be sensitive to the point you made in your last comment with me saying "perhaps in your situation..."
    The lower taxes could have helped was not for you...i understand lower taxes may not have helped. I am saying for everyone....i meant that if billions of dollars went back to all our families/friends then I argue chairty/faith groups would have more. With that 'more' there could be more help. I am not arguing one should be left to fend for themselves. i am arguing for the private secotr to keep more of their money and to smarten up and be helpful and generous. Hope this helps?

  12. Logan,
    Free market respects profit, but also sustainable profit.
    Your brother had a choice to work there. He was not forced (I presume). People need to take responsibility and not buy from stupid companies. Now I know and any person reading knows how that company you talked about and how they handle people. It will catch up with them.

  13. Your man Ryan Jantzi just figured out how to comment on his blog under his real name today.

    Do you really want to take advice from him? Just asking.

  14. Charity, friends, family and faith groups? The free market to be generous (without being told to do so????) A pretty idealistic approach to an extremely large and destructive issue. If you have ever been in the situation to need real help, you would not be suggesting that people in need should rely solely on the kindness of others. I would much rather feel assured that everyone can earn enough to survive. Minimum wage should absolutely be a living wage - as in the minimum that is neccessary to survive in this society. To suggest that someone working for minimum wage has a choice about their employment, that someone who had other options would choose to work in terrible working conditions or that the poster had other options for daycare is also idealistic unless of course by choice you mean to eat or not eat. There are people in this world who are working to their potential in a minimum wage job or through poor choices or a sad life story end up in that minimum wage job. Who are you to presume that they have not been responsible for their life? Do they not deserve a living wage? Who decides who is worthy of a basic standard of living (as in the LICO- Minimum wage is below LICO)? How is that a handout? How can this possiby be looked upon as someone feeling entitled to what they do not deserve? Everyone deserves a basic standard of living. Whatever your philosophy or politics, the reality is there is real suffering. The working poor is a reality. How is less tax going to change greed and consumption - and I am talking about corporate greed and consumption? Just because you as a business owner have a conscience and decide to give to others out of your free will does not mean that others would follow suit. Nor would it necessarily be enough to make a real difference. Poverty is a massive problem. With the number of wealthy people in this very wealthy of country of ours, if this were a possibility we would not have a problem with poverty and this has nothing to do with taxes. Also, your argument that government support devalues people and somehow charitable handouts makes people feel more loved is bunk! A government that values people takes care of the least fortunate with financial support, counselling and training (government aid comes with these other supports as well). A "handout" does not change meaning if it comes from the government or a charity. Ask someone who is suffering if they feel there is a difference in the food they are eating - from a food bank or from a food stamp? Of course, the person suffering from poverty may have feelings of worthlessness no matter where their "handouts" come from, likewise they may also have feelings of appreciation and belonging no matter where their "charity" comes from. Furthermore, you are truly idealistic if you think that anyone in poverty has not already exhausted options such as family, friends (most often not available), Church and charities (likely also necessary). Most need government help plus other avenues of support just to get by. To suggest that people who do not earn beyond minimum wage are not taking personal responsibility is insulting and presumptuous. To suggest that, is devaluing people no matter how often you claim that your ideas are compassionate. Of course personal giving is good but it is not enough and it cannot be counted upon nor can it be trusted be provided without prejudice. An objective policy is more effective. Perhaps a little more homework on the plight of the poor would make your arguments stronger.

  15. An: 00:41 thanks for your comments.
    Please note much of what you say is not what I said, or think.
    Due to size, only a few examples:
    I don't expect free market to be generous.
    I don't think people who struggle necessarily fail to take 'personal responsiblity'. etc etc.
    Not sure where you get, "everyone deserves a basic standard of living"...is that a religous belief, moral belief? (I happen to wish everyone had a basic standard of living, but the terrible sad reality is billions do not).
    Ryan Jantzi

  16. When I first read this post my initial gut reaction was "What?! No minimum wage?!! What is Ryan on about now, he can't be serious!". I tend to be fart more liberal in my thinking:) Then I started to really think about it and relate it to myself and how I came to know Ryan, and I realized he has a very valid point. The easiest way to explain myself is to share a bit of my story and how it lead to my conclusion.
    When I first met Ryan I was a single mother stuck in "the welfare trap". I faced all the expected barriers to employment and financial independence one would expect (daycare, transportation, little experience and little education). What I did have was a drive to succeed and a willingness to humble myself enough to learn. I did not want a hand out, I just needed an opportunity. Ryan gave me that. I'll never forget him asking what time my daughter started school so that he could make me able to take her to school in the morning before I started work. My first week working for Ryan I made barely above minimum wage. At the end of that week of working extremely hard for little money staying home and letting the government take care of me was a tempting thought. At the end of the second week of working very hard again Ryan came to me and said you are of more value to the company then your wage reflects and therefore I am increasing your wage accordingly. By continuing to learn and showing I was of more value to his company Ryan was able to continue to increase my wage. When I left his employ I made double what I had started at, and I deserved it. If I had taken a "minimum wage" job it would have been the easy way out for me and I would be no further ahead today for it. I have been able to take the skills I learned working for Ryan and build off of them to the point that I am now very financially independent and have paid back more then double in taxes anything I ever took from the system while I was on welfare. I do not feel any handout would have gotten me to where I am. If anything it was the handout of welfare that held me back. Hard work and valuing myself,my child and our future are what got us here. I am now able to stand tall as an example of hard work and ambition for my daughter. What kind of example would I be setting if I choose the easy way out in life?
    So yes Ryan as much as it pains me to admit it I do have to agree with you on the minimum wage argument you make.:)

  17. I meant far more liberal not "fart" more liberal! lol


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