Pam Frache
Organizer, 
Workers Action Centre
                                                


Ever since unions began they have been fighting for better wages, adequate training, and broader benefits. They have done this not just to the benefit of themselves, but to the benefit of all workers. 

How unions are helping in the fight to raise the minimum wage

“It’s true that by constantly striving for higher wages you end up putting upward pressure on wages and therefore; raising, the bar for all workers,” says Pam Frache, Organizer of the Workers’ Action Centre.”

The power of collective bargaining

Through power of collective bargaining unions are able to lift the status quo and ensure better livelihoods for everyone. With the power of numbers, unions advance their agenda of increasing wages and securing better benefits and work conditions. When the unions achieve these goals, they naturally spill over to the general public, so all workers can enjoy them.  

“When you have a higher level of unionization you have a decreased level of maladies that affect society – stronger income equality, higher socioeconomic conditions, lower levels of poverty”

One could say that the unions offer a starting point for better conditions for workers in all professions. The best recent example to note would be parental leave -- formerly known as maternity leave. 

In the 1920s unions fought for the right for mothers in their ranks to take time off after having a child. Shortly after that right became commonplace among employees in all sectors, even non-unionized ones. 

Today, it’s practically a given that when you have a child you can take an extended leave without having to worry about your job still being there when you return. 


Uniting to raise the minimum wage

You’re no doubt familiar with the current push going on across Canada and the US to raise the minimum wage. In Ontario, Premier Wynne has agreed to raise it to $11/hour starting June 1, 2014 in the face of unrelenting demand. While this is a step in the right direction, it still falls short of the $14/hour goal that would put minimum wage workers 10 per cent above the poverty line. 

“The trade unions are at a crossroads and to live up to our potential being inclusive and diverse movement is fundamental.”

Both union and non-union organizations are involved in this battle. This is a common cause under which many people can unite as it affects us all, directly or indirectly. With the unions backing it, they will add a great amount of steam to the campaign engine.

“Surveys show that the majority of people in Ontario support a $14/hour minimum wage,” says Frache. “We’re very heartened by how popular this demand actually is. I think it corresponds with the general concern that Canadians are unhappy with the growth of inequality between the highest income earners and the lowest income earners.”

The Workers Action Centre campaign has seen some success already. The government has charged its Minimum Wage Advisory Board to reconsider the wage. It looks like once again the power of unions is working to make things better for all workers in Canada.

“That was, I think, a huge acknowledgement that there is a very serious problem,” says Frache. “Most campaigns don’t get results in the first few months of their existence.”