• Michael Laxer

$15 Now or in 2025 is not like $15 Now in 2010 or 2014

As this classic cartoon from 1978 reminds, what is a decent wage and a radical wage demand does not remain fixed.

After many years of struggle by the left and workers' movements, liberals and social democrats in North America are -- more or less -- getting on board with the demand for a $15 an hour minimum wage. They are, of course, doing so when $15 an hour is no longer what it once was.

The demand for the $15 minimum wage started in earnest in the early 2010s. I wrote an article about fighting for $15 an hour minimum wages in Toronto for Rabble in 2014 (I also ran on the issue -- among others -- in the Toronto municipal election that year).

In the years since then the equivalent of $15 an hour, based on inflation, is today at least $16.43 on average in Canada and $16.67 in the USA. Versus 2010 it is $17.41 and $18.09 respectively. Given soaring housing prices, for example, $15 an hour has fallen even more behind as a living wage in many regions and cities (like Toronto).

Despite this, only one province in Canada has a $15 an hour minimum wage and that is Alberta. Otherwise they range from a low of $11.45 in Saskatchewan to a "high" of $14.60 under the NDP in BC. The minimum wage will finally cross $15 on June 1, 2021 in BC when it reaches $15.20. (The territory of Nunavut has a minimum wage of $16).

Under the Liberals in Ontario it would have reached $15 in 2019 though the election of the regressive Ford government ended that.

Note again that this would have been under the LIBERALS.

There is a point where a demand has run its course and actually serves to put a brake on and dampen the expectations of working people. Where it favours the interests of those in power and of the bosses more than those of workers.

$15 an hour was a more just and serious demand in 2012 or 2014. It is not one anymore in 2021 and it certainly won't be in 2025 or 2028.

It is no coincidence that as the years pass and the demand means less and less it is embraced more and more by mainstream politicians and media across North America. It is better for the left and workers' organizations to stay ahead of that curve.