Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle meets Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed in today’s Toronto Star. The paper sent a writer to work at a large industrial bakery in Toronto recently. Her findings should shock us.
Wages are low. The pace is fast. Safety is a hit-and-miss affair in a profitable establishment making bread products for corporate clients. There has been loss of life at the plant where most of the workers are female newcomers. Their employer has received grants, loans and praise from the government. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board gives them rebates. Through their lawyer the owners say that safety is important.
Temps pick their wages up in cash at a payday lending office thirty-five minutes away by bus. Their employer drives a Bentley and lives in a mansion.
On Twitter alone, mentions of this feature have grown steadily all day. This feature deserves a wide audience and is exactly the kind of reportage the Star should be coming up with.
Any discussion of economic relationships and the character of society needs to fully consider the reality of prostitution or it remains incomplete. Initially, this can be a fraught undertaking but the honest citizen observing social difficulty with a conscience is obliged to make an effort given the implications of prostitution and human trafficking for women, youth and children within what is a very large, global business.
The essence of prostitution is the purchase of temporary access to the body of another, mostly by a man, for the purposes of penetration and gratification. While such a transaction seems simple enough it is usually accompanied by a societal smokescreen of ignorance, opinion, financial interest and emotionalism such that the reality remains obscure with a subsequently frustrating effect on creating a general perspective, let alone helpful social policy.
With this difficulty in mind we are lucky to have a generation of individuals giving us their efforts and words. Some of their urgency about prostitution is a response to recent legalization efforts in a number of countries. While considered sensible and well-intentioned at first these legalization efforts appear to be resulting in more harm than good. Prostitution seems to become industrialized where it is legalized.
Simple legalization ignores the direct reality of selling one’s body and little accounts for the behaviour of the male buyer. This blog recently came across the work of three women activists that offer a high-level starting point for considering this topic. Their Twitter accounts are a quick way to find and learn from their articles, websites, activism and books. Natashe Falle is in Toronto (see also her site Sex Trade 101). Rachel Moran and Julie Bindel are in Ireland and the UK respectively with Caitlin Roper Australia-based.
Through varied paths these women seem to have arrived at a common appreciation for what needs to come after legalization of the kind seen in New Zealand and Germany as well as other countries.
Here is a recent item from the website of UK magazine The Spectator by Julie Bindel with a podcast and other links.
Over sixty percent of Canada’s reported human trafficking activity takes place in the Greater Toronto Area. This CBC piece describes a recent case in Mississauga. The dull image of a row of motels on Dundas Street, a major artery used daily by a huge number of motor vehicles, gives no indication of the human risk encountered by trafficked women and youth in such places. While most of North America’s sprawl does not have ‘traditional’ red light districts like those of Amsterdam, for example, these communities are still home to sexual exploitation, pimping and prostitution.
‘Anyone can be a victim’: Canadian high school girls being lured into sex trade. Toronto-area teenager recounts how she was recruited into sex work by peers at 16
Recent attention to the so-called Nordic Model in which the criminalizing of paid sexual activity is transferred to the male buyer has generated enthusiasm and backlash. Canada is considered a Nordic Model country but it would seem there is still plenty of work to do on all of this.
Taken. I was a teenage runaway struggling to survive when I met a man who promised me love and security
On prostitution, can Canada learn from the Nordic Model?
The new era of Canadian sex work
vice.com (video 34:41)
image: Victory of the People via Flickr/CC
A video-based piece from Strong Towns that really nails it at the highest level. Everything we’re doing out here is new, expensive and more fragile than we know.
Ontario needs to find a better balance when it comes to wages and economic relationships. A new report finds richer Ontarians doing well while their low income neighbours keep sliding.
Poor Ontario families getting poorer. New research says bottom half of families in Ontario are earning less, while richer families earn more
Ontario’s middle and working class families are losing ground
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – links to 32-page .pdf file
Minimum wage hike needed as half of Ontarians see wages shrink
Ontario minimum wage increase good for workers and business: economist
bnn.ca (video 8:14)
In 1945 the world really stood in awe of the English-speaking countries. Still comparatively lucky they are, yes, but not for long with nonsense like this:
A presentation on the challenging, refitted future of North American sprawl as good as this one deserves way more hits. June Williamson, co-author of Retrofitting Suburbia, at a conference this summer:
The future of suburban retrofit
– City University of New York
Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World
Roderick Benns, 2016
Fireside Publishing House, Cambridge, ON
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s announcement this morning of a three-community basic income pilot project would seem to move us happily to the forefront of one of the most interesting social policy developments in ages. It also attaches some extra timeliness to an encounter with activist Roderick Benns’s book on the topic.
Basic Income is a compendium of interviews, short articles and Q&A sessions on basic income. Benns supports a model based on a negative income tax in the amount of fifteen- to twenty-thousand dollars a year. (The Ontario pilot looks set to utilize an amount of seventeen-thousand dollars annually) A number of delivery models are possible for a basic income and the idea is to reform a patchy, outdated welfare system and place a minimum economic floor underneath all Canadians. The book functions as an intellectual diary logging the upward curve of interest basic income has enjoyed in Canada (and globally) over the last two years.
Benns is a true believer in the nicest sense of the term. His efforts are from the heart. Basic Income is peppered with the names of patient activists and the high profile Canadian political figures being drawn to this topic. Words from people in social difficulty describe how their lives might have been improved upon by a basic income and add some moral urgency to this policy matter.
Canadian mayors appear very frequently in Basic Income. Their words lend this book, and the concept, great strength. Mayors all over the country were canvassed by Benns in regard to a citizen’s income. Many weighed in with full enthusiasm, providing supportive quotations based on direct community knowledge. Indeed, the testimony of mayors from every corner of the country is the strongest component of this book. The municipal level of government is the one closest to the daily lives of people and who better than mayors to advocate common sense approaches to poverty and hardship?
The age of Internet search engines makes the lack of a table of contents or index somewhat excusable. The page at the end for further resources is a slim offering, however, considering the importance of social media and the Internet to activism. Basic Income is very important for content over format, even if the latter could be improved upon cheaply and quickly, in our opinion.
Three years is the length of the basic income pilot confirmed today for Ontario. Benns’s book offers readers a good tool for understanding and measuring this pilot and the progress of basic income around the world. No doubt Benns will be watching closesly and sharing insights.
Buy his book and visit his online project: precariouswork.com
Giving more people an opportunity to get ahead and stay ahead. Ontario basic income pilot to launch in Thunder Bay, Hamilton and Lindsay
You know you are in a bubble when you are completely surrounded by people totally convinced you aren’t in a bubble. Things seemed to be heating up in the late 1980s, but that’s nearly a generation ago now…
How Canada completely lost its mind over real estate
Canada’s totally out-of-control real estate market has now gone completely mad – and there’s no turning back
(video 1:46 & numerous links)
image: Correy Dantzler via Flickr/CC
A business of any size should be able to realize a benefit in worker behaviour and community image by paying a little more than minimum wage. That’s the simple (and lovely) idea behind the living wage movement, represented in Ontario by a non-profit advocacy group or two and, it would seem, a small-but-growing number of employers. This can only be a good thing.
No, the beer isn’t free yet, but for Canadians, it’s only fitting that a brewery is among the early adopters of living wages! Now to get the big players in every sector doing this. If someone works forty hours a week and is still in poverty something is wrong.