“Minimum Wage Should be a Living Wage”

September 25th, 2014

At Vancouver’s biggest mall today, Meena Wong, COPE candidate for mayor, announced a key plank in the party’s plan to combat income inequality in Vancouver.

“I’m standing before you now to say this loud and clear: Vancouver needs a raise. Now, I don’t mean that City Councilors need a raise. In February of this year, the Mayor and City Councilors gave themselves a raise. And I don’t mean that the city’s communications department needs a raise. It came out last week they’re already getting $1.6 million. And for sure the property developers in this city don’t need a raise. They are making record profits under Vision Vancouver’s government,” said Meena Wong.

“I’m standing before here today to say that the people of Vancouver need a raise. Especially those who work the hardest and get paid the least. Hospitality workers, retail and food workers, caregivers, and more. These people are often women, people of colour, immigrants, indigenous people and students.”

Wong detailed COPE’s plans for implementing a Living Wage. Leading the way, a COPE government will institute a Living Wage as the minimum standard for those directly employed by the City of Vancouver.

Next, contractors will also be required to meet the Living Wage in order to qualify for City of Vancouver contracts. They will also have to meet unionization and Fair Wage requirements.

COPE will seek an amendment to the Vancouver Charter giving the City the power to set a local minimum wage. The provincial minimum wage is only half of a Living Wage in Vancouver, contributing to the growing inequalities that make the city unaffordable. Where the province has failed, COPE will lead.

The next phase will focus on big box stores and chains. Most small businesses want to pay their employees well, but they are undercut by big businesses that pay low wages. COPE will work with other municipalities to institute a Living Wage across Metro Vancouver, lessening the chance of stores relocating to avoid paying their employees a fair wage.

The Seattle experience demonstrates that with the support of residents, city governments can take a stand to support working people and to bring low wage workers out of poverty.

In Seattle last year, Kshama Sawant was elected to Seattle City Council on a platform of winning a $15/hour minimum wage. Sawant unseated the incumbent Democrat and now Seattle is implementing a $15/hour minimum wage, which will rise with inflation.

Councillor Sawant is coming to Vancouver this weekend, and she will be giving the keynote speech at COPE’s event this Saturday. Sawant is here to say, “if we gave Seattle a raise, you can give Vancouver a raise too!”

Seattle City Councillor, Kshama Sawant, will be speaking Saturday September 27th, 7:00pm at the Maritime Labour Centre, on that city’s successful fight for $15/hour. Tickets available here: www.cope.bc.ca/kshamasawant.