Québec Solidaire Verdun
In a Verdun convenience store customer and cashier exchange a few words. In response to a customer complaint about the cost of bread, the cashier suddenly responds : « it’s simple, everything goes up except our salaries! ». Witnessing this scene, B.-P., a AS militant (Alternative Socialiste) and member of Québec solidaire, likes to believe that this is a repercussion of the display campaign by the group in favor the minimum wage of $15. Indeed, among the thousands of posters plastered in the Southwest and Verdun by the organization, one was bonded, clearly visible near the convenience store. For J.D., also a member of AS, one aim of the campaign is precisely to have an echo in the minds of the population using simple and clear claims based on the daily experience of the precariousness and needs of people. This display initiative is the first step in a local campaign that until now made significant gains in several US cities and, in less than a year, is spreading in Canada.
A claim brought by wage earners
On November 26, 2012, a release day has mobilized hundreds of non-union members workers in sixty fast food branches of New York. These precarious workers, often paid minimum wages, liable to discontinuous schedules and infernal work rates, are demanding wage increases and better working conditions. In United States, minimum wage has stagnated at $7.25 at the federal level. States and municipalities may however provide higher salary on their territory. Nonetheless, they are largely insufficient to cover current expenditures. This historic strike will « oil stain » and be followed by similar demonstrations in over 200 cities, 35 countries and 6 continents. This experience will be the spark plug of the campaign « Fight for $15 », whose main claim is precisely the establishment of a minimum wage of $ 5.
Seattle victory strategy of « onto the ballot – into the streets. »
It’s in Seattle that the first victory of the campaign « Fight for $15 » took shape in 2014. The municipal election of 2013 has been one of the key stages of a strategy called « onto the ballot – into the streets ». Kshama Sawant, organizer of the Occupy movement and a member of the local branch of the SA group was then elected city councilor. Singular figure of the American political landscape, Ms. Sawant defended throughout her campaign uninhibited socialism articulated around some key demands: the adoption of a minimum wage of $15, control of rents, social housing construction and lowering the cost of public transport. The growing popular echo of this particular strategy has forced Democrat opponents to position themselves for the minimum wage of $15. Once elected, Kshama Sawant has skillfully used her position to continue promoting this claim while pursuing, in parallel, the popular mobilizations. A few months after the election, the City Hall, acquired largely by Democrats, has finally established the Income Inequality Advisory Committee (IIAC), a committee of elected representatives and representatives of private enterprise responsible for proposing a minimum wage increase plan.
Throughout the deliberations of the committee, Kshama Sawant has actively denounced the attempts by the right to neutralize the economic effects of the minimum wage. Also, with the aim to keep the pressure on the committee and elected officials, members of AS organized the campaign 15Now!. District councils were also established to entrench local mobilization. It’s finally in June 2, 2014 that was passed unanimously, by the elected representatives, a gradual increase of the minimum wage plan which, after a period of 5 years, to be generalized in all businesses at $15, the highest in the United States. Since then, other cities including Los Angeles and New York have followed suit or are considering doing so.
Recently, the British Columbia Federation of Labor (BCFL), the main trade union center of the province, has adopted the campaign « Fight For $15 » following representations of the members of « Young Workers », the young collective of the federation. To this end, a website was set up, a petition circulating through the population and the 15th day of each month, an activity organized to promote this claim. The New Democratic Party, both federally and in some provinces, has come out in favor of the wage to $15. This is also a theme which was promoted by the party during the election campaign after which he got the majority of seats in the Alberta legislature in 2015.
Meanwhile in Quebec…
AS postering initiative, visible on Verdun street furniture, is a first step in the campaign for a minimum wage of $15 in Quebec. B.-P. & J.D. immediately recognize that they act as initiators with, for now, relatively modest means. According to them, the next step of the campaign rests on its adoption by the social movements, primarily the trade unions. For their part, members of Québec solidaire should feel challenged by this initiative. It is, to date, the only party to propose a substantial increase in the minimum wage. The program provides for setting, initially, the minimum wage at the poverty line and then to raise to 50% above that level. It’s clear that contrary to the claim for a wage of $15, this formulation is still inconvenient to constitute clear and simple political slogans. Nevertheless, this position makes Québec solidaire a privileged actor to lead such a campaign.
Note that several Quebec organizations bear the claim in favor of a significant increase in the minimum wage, mainly Au bas de l’échelle