On Oct. 1, Alberta’s move to a $15 minimum wage is a victory for more than 300,000 working people who will get a well-deserved raise since the first increase introduced by the Notley government in 2015, a fact every Albertan should be proud of.
A higher minimum wage is good for working people. It means more money in the pockets of women (more than 60 per cent of minimum wage earners); more money in the pockets of parents (more than 37 per cent of minimum wage earners); and more money in the pockets of single parents (18,200 minimum wage earners). All of these people work hard, and this extra cash will be a lifeline for many who are struggling to make ends meet. Anyone who puts in a 40-hour work week should be able to put food on the table and a roof over their head, and this new minimum wage gets Albertans one step closer to that goal — in fact, $15 is considered a living wage in Medicine Hat.
And a higher minimum wage isn’t just good for workers. It’s also good for the economy. Minimum wage workers are more likely to spend locally, so when they have more money in their pockets, they can afford to buy the products and services local businesses are selling. Because higher wages boost the purchasing power of low-wage workers, economists and groups like the International Monetary Fund have concluded that higher minimum wages are likely to boost economy growth. In fact, not only did restaurant-industry receipts reach record highs this summer according to ATB, but full-time jobs have also increased by 39,600 since the last round of minimum wage hikes — proving yet again that higher job numbers and higher wages can go hand in hand.
A higher minimum wage can also make businesses more stable. Higher wages reduce turnover and increase productivity — both of which can reduce costs and increase profits for businesses. And that’s good for workers and businesses alike.
With every minimum wage increase since 2015, right-wing reactionaries and naysayers have claimed the sky was falling. They’ve made ludicrous predictions about job losses and small businesses going under. But the proof is in the numbers: and heading into the fourth and final year of minimum wage increases, job numbers are up, businesses are thriving, and workers are earning more money.
In short, the sky is still firmly intact. If anything, for 300,000 working Albertans with more cash in hand, it’s just a little bit sunnier.
Gil McGowan is president of the Alberta Federation of Labour