“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.
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.