image: Cupcake by Wayne Thiebaud via Wikimedia Commons
For the United States: the Living Wage Calculator has been whirring away online generating data for every county in the United States since 2004. Cost of living information is fed into the calculator to generate a realistic wage that will keep workers and their family members out of poverty. Quick and easy to use.
Living Wage Calculator – Poverty in America/MIT
For Canada: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives provides a calculation method for living wages in Canada as a technical appendix to an update of a major report on living wages in Metro Vancouver. Using this method involves downloading a .pdf file and a spreadsheet file and then inputting data for the community you are interested in. Not as quick and easy to use but good to have.
Working for a Living Wage: 2013 26-page .pdf file from CCPA
Less keen on the homework involved in using the CCPA method we chose two Chicagoland counties from the MIT/Poverty in America calculator we thought would compare roughly with the Greater Toronto Area. The hourly wage range indicated by the calculator as needed to keep workers and children out of poverty is from just over ten dollars for a single worker to over thirty dollars for a single worker with three children. Workers with combinations of partners and children required hourly wage rates around the twenty dollar mark to maintain themselves above poverty levels.
The point of both tools is to demonstrate in a real world way that minimum wages are too low to keep working people out of poverty.
Something of a classic activist/establishment moment occurred in regard to the minimum wage in Ontario the other day. A commission is reviewing the matter, after something of a delay, and an election is on the horizon. The Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage went after the commission chair to try living on the resources of a $10.25 per hour wage for a month. No doubt they knew the chair would be unwilling and unable to do that kind of homework. As a privileged Ontarian with four children and a professional life enmeshed with the private and public sector Anil Verma is hardly going to start eating Captain Crunch for dinner just to show how much he cares about the 540,000 workers in the province getting by on a minimum wage not increased in three years (it has actually shrunk in real terms by 6.5%!). Mr. Verma knew the challenge was part of the game and that he could blow it off with little consequence, pain in the butt that it would be. For Mr. Verma this will be a rationalized undertaking, a lot like a corporate undertaking with lots of documentation, meetings, emails and so on. Already the language associated with the reform commission seems a little weasel-like, hinting at a disinterest in bringing working people above poverty because to do so might contradict the perceived wisdom of the neoconservative project.
Panel chair says no to minimum wage challenge
image: Canadian dollar bill, 1898 via Wikimedia Commons
David Olive writes a half decent business and current affairs column for the Toronto Star. As in his books, blog and feature articles Olive takes a sensible, non-ideological, open-handed approach to matters economic. Take the emergence of minimum wage reform in Ontario as a public issue for example. In today’s paper, Olive makes the case for an increase to minimum wage from two angles. Firstly, he argues it is unethical to leave working people to struggle on lousy wages. Struggle they do. Secondly, and this is a neutron bomb to many a knee-jerk, neo-conservative commentator: there is a sound business case for strengthening wages.
Somebody give this man a double-double and a donut!
What makes Canadians sick? Poverty, says a report from the Canadian Medical Association Ottawa Citizen
The CMA based its findings on six town-hall style meetings across Canada
In addition to having a totally excellent-sounding name University of Kansas student Arnobio Morellix should get the next Nobel prize for economics. Why? For releasing to the Huffington Post the other day the results of an enquiry into the price of a Big Mac. Apparently, if Mickey D were to double their basic front counter wages the price of a single one of their signature sandwiches would go up a whopping sixty-eight cents. Morellix’s effort was not a comprehensive, high-level cost analysis. Rather, it was based on data for corporate run stores contained in the last annual report. The point is that we’ve been provided with a sensible, real world metric for understanding the role a very large employer plays, or could play, in the general economy. …and at a time of rotating strikes by fast food workers in the United States for better wages!
See also: (353) MuckDonald’s
Editor’s note 13/08: with the appearance of this item some controversy arose and Huffington Post essentially withdrew the item, qualifying it beyond its initial position after seeking the opinion of a fast food finance consultant.
image: Evan-Amos via Wikimedia Commons
Ontario’s Liberal government promised the voters, taxpayers and workers of the province a serious review of the minimum wage in their 2011 budget. Today a six-member panel left the runway with instructions to look at all angles of the issue and report back in six months. The panel was not given front-page treatment exactly but it was not ignored either. “Long awaited” appears all over the coverage of the announcement of the panel. Indeed.
Millions of people are in minimum wage employment in Ontario and they and their families, friends and political allies will be very interested in what does, or does not, come out of this effort. Ontario has been winging it for decades in regard to the minimum wage, dragging its heels about increases and then lunging forward belatedly in the 2000s. Pressure exists to see the minimum wage boosted from $10.25 per hour to $14.00. That means more money for everything from diapers to bus tickets in the hands of working people. Would someone like to argue with that?
No doubt, there will be resistance and reaction to better minimum wages. Anil Verma, a human resources academic from the Rotman School of Business, will lead the panel and he has already made statements in the media that indicate a cautious approach, hint at disappointment in fact, for advocates of a $14.00 minimum wage. Verma seems to be emphasising the macroeconomic effect of minimum wage increases, their effect on job creation and growth. He pointed out to the Toronto Star that the minimum wage is not a comprehensive tool for addressing poverty and other mechanisms are available for that. Fair enough, but hopefully this committee will not just repackage shallow, neoconservative aphorisms and will become educated about the harm done to Ontario when large masses of her people do no more than scrape by on poor wages.
Two major things ought to find their way into legislation that are within the scope of the panel. First off, that raise to $14.00 per hour. Secondly, a rational mechanism attaching further increases to real-world living costs. No more winging it, Ontario.
Of note is that a poverty activist from Windsor, ON will sit on the committee: Adam Vasey from Pathway to Potential. Here is a short item from that agency regarding that appointment and with a link to the Labour Ministry news release announcing the panel. P2P
image: Queen’s Park, Toronto by K.lee via Wikimedia Commons with edit
Time to grab a pop can of major outrage, shake it up good and open it fast so it sprays all over McDonald’s. How come? Well, look at the web content they posted recently — if the PR department hasn’t yanked its plug already — advising its many thousands of low wage employees how they can fine tune their eking out of a living.
No, this is not a joke on suburban-poverty.com’s part. For starters, we are a remarkably humourless institution. Secondly, this idea that working people can get by on nine or ten dollars an hour isn’t funny, except possibly in some mirthless, ironic, cosmic sense. A US activist organization called Low Pay Is Not OK tried out the budgeting tool and found it left quite a bit to be desired.
No word on a Canadian edition of the tool.
Get your money on track
www.practicalmoneyskills.com – McDonald’s
image: JKCarl via Wikimedia Commons
That’s how much money Britain’s Trades Union Council says has been removed from the British economy via lost and low wages, unemployment and underemployment since the start of the recession. To underscore what this means in terms of injury to people’s well being the TUC has launched a campaign called Britain Needs A Payrise. So does Canada come to think of it, and the Americans are looking a little down-in-the-face these days as well.
Britain Needs A Payrise
image: NASA via Wikimedia Commons
Internships have become a fixture of the economy. Asking around about the value of working without pay in order to get some real world currency with employers is to solicit decidedly mixed responses. Descriptors range from “worthless” to “depressing” and “annoying bullshit” to “it saved my life”. Where is the truth we might wonder at a time when the employment prospects for youth seem as difficult as ever? We are told with religious certainty that maximum education is required for success in the new workplace and being an intern is therefore to be embraced. Young people often serve more than one and yet the internship, for many, is just another stretch on the road to nowhere, a feature of underemployment and poverty.
The downside of interning has struggled to emerge within the story of work and employment as it has come to be known since the 1980s. The mythology of internship remains strong, in part, because there are success stories. So, what of the time-wasting, depressing, free-lunch-for-business critique of interning? Well, it’s becoming especially important now that legalistic arguments are being advanced that large-scale use of interns may actually be illegal, not just morally iffy, but contrary to reasonable expectations of the social conduct of business and government?
Canada appears to be catching up to the States and the UK where the negative take on interning is a much more evolved and visible story, and has been for a while. The University of Toronto Student Union spoke up this week on behalf of some 300,000 unpaid interns across the country in nearly every kind of industry, taking a position that such internships are exploitve. UTSU’s letter to Ontario’s Minister of Labour received a mediocre response from that office and seems to have been pushed out of the media by the Boston attacks.
Coincidentally, a social media/brand management firm in British Columbia called HootSuite has been so embarrassed, in the online world in particular, at the backlash against its use of unpaid interns it has stopped the practice and going forward will pay interns. Clearly, their interns have been doing something of monetary value and their lawyers must have told them there is merit, and therefore risk to HootSuite, in the argument that interning is illegal.
Unpaid HootSuite interns get back pay itworldcanada.com
The book Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy by Ross Perlin made a project of understanding internships in the United States and is brutal reading. Perlin allows for the potential value of interning, offers numerous solutions but finds too many things wrong with the phenomenon for it to remain the way it is. He sets out the scale, meaning and implications of what has become a social norm.
In the UK we find an ongoing legal case in which a 24-year-old museum volunteer, Caitt Reilly, receiving a job seeker’s benefit was required to work without wages at a retail chain called Poundland, British equivalent of a dollar store. Ms. Reilly is part of a challenge to the legislation requiring unpaid commerical work for social welfare benefits mounted in the courts. Her example has stirred a large amount of emotion and the government was compelled to amend a bill in parliament to prevent back pay being given to those in unpaid-work-for-benefit situations like Ms. Reilly’s.
For many observers her case speaks to the miserable nature of the current coalition government steering the UK towards austerity and seeming to lack any other idea beyond cutbacks to public programs and lower taxes for the wealthy.
Poundland ruling ‘blows big hole’ through government work schemes
guardian.co.uk – see video, other links & comments section
International Lessons: youth unemployment in the global context
53-page .pdf version of a January 2013 report from Lancaster University’s Work Foundation which finds the UK comparing poorly to, yes, you guessed it, Germany when it comes to moving young people from education to employment.
image: Wikimedia Commons