“Nobody who works full time in Manitoba should live in poverty.”
When Manitoba New Democratic Party leader Wab Kinew said these words during the “$15 is Fair” rally on the Legislature steps on Sep. 19, 2017, some people might have been tempted to dismiss that statement because of its source, given recent news reports about his personal life.
For the many people who try to survive on minimum wage, however, those words expressed what can be a daily struggle for a decent standard of living in an increasingly unequal society.
According to a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report, a living wage in Winnipeg was $14.07 even in 2013, while in 2015 the government of Manitoba set the province’s minimum wage at $11 per hour. Although prices have risen since 2013, minimum wage has largely stayed stagnant, leaving many people dealing with a large gap between what they receive for their work and what they need.
Make Poverty History was a sponsor of the September 19th rally, which featured speeches from several community leaders and politicians, with participants coming from many different walks of life.
For Nicole Dvorak, a student currently working for minimum wage at a coffee shop, the issue is very real.
“We have to make sure that people can live off it [minimum wage] and not be struggling,” she said, noting that she had no certainty of being able to find higher-paying work, given the current trend towards low-level jobs and the lack of professional opportunities.
As the cost of living continues to rise, debates over minimum wage will become more urgent, and activists will continue to protest any gap between what employers pay and what people need to live. Even when government leaders appear not to listen to the people they are supposed to represent, the united voices of Manitobans could eventually have an effect.