First Living Wage Victory in Canada

Financial Justice Organizing

BCLWC ScreenCapNew Orleans After several campaigns almost yielded victories around Canada, ACORN Canada in British Columbia broke through in New Westminster with a stunning, unanimous vote to win the first living wage policy for any governmental jurisdiction in the country. Perhaps as remarkable was the adoption of a top tier wage and benefits level to one of the highest levels in North America for contract wages: $16.74 per hour! V-I-C-T-O-R-Y, VICTORY, VICTORY IS OUR CRY!!!

When leaders of BC ACORN like Dave Tate and Canada Drouin and the outstanding organizing team directed by head organizer in BC, John Anderson, first initiated the campaign they knew prospects were good given the sold working families orientation of this Vancouver suburb, but they also knew that this would need to be a coalition effort so they forged strong partnerships with labor and others to push the measure. Also, invaluable was the excellent research and constant assistance provided by Seth Klein and the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives. A report they had authored that defined a family and child centered wage policy became the “gold standard” for setting the number that eventually prevailed.

Going into the meeting of the New West council, our friends on the council thought we had the majority, but we wanted to win decisively. One of the members working with city officials had also tried to build support for a middle ground alternative in the staff report which would not adopt a living wage policy but instead implement an “ethical contracting” policy, hoping that a looser social responsibility angle might peel off a vote or two or delay our measure. Now, we know we can go back and win the ethical standards provision in the next round.

Tactically, ACORN Canada decided to sit in the audience with their crowd and let the work they had done behind the scenes speak loudest, and it turned out to be the right judgment when the council ended up voting unanimously to approve the policy and become the first city in Canada to create a living wage measure.

The pressure now moves towards the ACORN Canada campaign in Ottawa, where the votes are still fluid and the measure is bouncing around the poverty reduction committee, but now that the first victory has been won, look for ACORN Canada to be moving their living wage campaign in governmental jurisdictions all over the country.

Celebrate, dance to the music!