SEIU Canada (Service Employees International Union - Canada)

SEIU Canada (Service Employees International Union - Canada)

July 13, 2009 16:50 ET

SEIU: Ottawa and a Living Wage

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 13, 2009) - Ottawa is our nation's capital and should lead by example. In one way it is lagging behind centres like Los Angeles is in providing a living wage for its workers. SEIU Canada and SEIU Local 2 support the efforts of Ottawa ACORN in fighting for a precedent setting Living Wage Bylaw in the City of Ottawa.

Living Wage Bylaws are powerful municipal tools for ensuring that our tax dollars are used to raise families out of poverty. Those families will then have money to spend locally, thus improving the economy of the city. We have to look at this as not only helping working people gain a fair wage but it will also help stimulate the local economy. Currently, many workers put in full-time hours put are paid part- time wages ($595/ every 2 weeks). This means that more than half of their paycheque is taken up by rent. They're struggling just to make ends meet and they're working full-time.

A Living Wage Bylaw will reduce pressure on the budgets of social service agencies in the City as well produce more productive workers who don't switch jobs as frequently. Implementing a Living Wage is part of a strategy for poverty reduction which would bring the wage of working people to $13.50 per hour, not an exorbitant amount. Those struggling workers, especially those with families, will then be able to purchase necessities without breaking the bank.

- Further, evidence from Los Angeles, as well as other cities with Living Wage bylaws shows no negative impact on business or employment levels but has shown real gains for low wage workers. This is what Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles had to say about the living wage at the launch of his Economic Action Plan, "Jobs create financial security, safe streets and bright futures for working families in our City," Mayor Villaraigosa said. "The health of our economy depends on a steady supply of good jobs for local residents. With this six-point plan, we are on track to move 100,000 Angelenos into high quality jobs by July 2010." The mayor's goal is to place 100,000 workers into good jobs in a year (the launch took place in 2008).

- In Canada many large cities are currently exploring the impact of Living Wage policies in their communities. These communities include, Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. Toronto currently maintains a well-established "fair wage" policy which strictly prohibits the city from conducting business with any contractors and suppliers who discriminate against their workers.

Ottawa ACORN has taken a bold step in ensuring that everyone gets a fair wage. "Living wage policies create equality and opportunity for full time workers and some sort of wage protection by implementing a floor level wage," said ACORN leader Kat Fortin, former employee of Calian Technologies which receives contracts from the City of Ottawa.

SEIU supports The Living Wage Campaign and the efforts of our City Councilors who are working hard to get this policy implemented. The City of Ottawa should see this as a positive and future building initiative rather than a drain on city funds. As Nadia Willard of ACORN said," A living wage benefits everyone".

Sharleen Stewart is the Canadian International Vice- President of SEIU and President of SEIU Local 1.

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