My Perspective On The Minimum Wage Increase

Undoubtedly, just about everyone in Ontario has an opinion about the recent minimum wage increase right now.  Even better (or worse?), there are those of us with stories.  In the week since the minimum wage has been raised, I have been personally affected and I have decided that I want to share my story.

If you’ve read my Year In Review you’ll know that I was excited to be working two jobs in the new year.  This is no longer the case and I am now back to working one job.

Here is what happened…

After completing my Masters I got a job as an administrative assistant/file clerk with a small, local business.  I’ll call it: Company A.  It was an ok job.  It was easy work but I was never happy there because I was working completely alone, with little human interaction, for a boss who is not that good at running their own company.  I can say this because the majority of my past work and volunteer experience has been for small/family owned businesses – by comparison, Company A was the worst run out of every single job I have ever had.

Since I was unhappy with this job, after I had been working there for a year I started job hunting to try to get work in my preferred field.  Admittedly, I picked a tough field to get into and although I had a number of interviews and second interviews for much better jobs, I was still stuck with Company A.

Then, about 2 months ago, my boss wanted me to take on even more responsibilities and that’s when things went wrong.  I was already doing the work of 3 people within the company and was being horribly underpaid – I was being paid $12/hour with no benefits, whereas most companies pay a minimum of $20-$25/hour with full benefits packages for the kind of work I was doing.  So when my boss wanted to increase my work load even more, I said I’d consider it if we could discuss a pay raise.  She informed me that I would be getting $14 soon and that that would be enough.  I told her that the legal raising of the minimum wage does not count as a raise and informed her of how much she was underpaying me for the work I was already doing.  She then proceeded to throw a long-winded tantrum about how she couldn’t believe how the government could do this to her.  It was as if she felt personally attacked by the fact the government was raising the minimum wage. I was told that I would never ever be paid more than minimum wage working for this company.  And then my boss told me that if she had known the minimum wage was going to be raised she never would have hired me in the first place because I was a “luxury [she] can not afford”.  I was patronized and talked down to as I was told that there’s no way a non-business owner like me could ever understand what the minimum wage increase would do to people.  I told her that I understood perfectly as the wage increase would mean that I would be able to afford both rent and groceries.  That prompted her to “apologize” to me – but the apology still contained a good deal of insults directed at me, the government, and all other minimum wage workers.

Obviously, I was angry about this and felt the need to get out of this job immediately, so I decided to try to get back into the food service industry as I used to be a waitress.  I applied to a particular food service chain that is a very well known corporation because I wanted to be a part of a company that valued and took care of it’s employees.  I’ll refer to this as: Company B.  One of the stores of Company B hired me could only offer me part time work.  I took the job anyway as a chance to try to earn more money and to at least decrease my hours with Company A, even if I couldn’t yet afford to leave it altogether.

So here’s what I’m pretty sure was going on: the owner of Company A has a habit of making poor business decisions which has resulted in a drop of sales and, honestly, has created a financial mess that I believe is no longer fixable at this point.  COMPANY A WAS HAVING FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES BEFORE THERE WERE EVEN TALKS OF RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE.  So in cases like this it is absolutely wrong to blame the workers at any company for wanting to be paid a living wage.  Whether or not the minimum wage was increased, companies like this would still be struggling financially.  I am pretty sure the only reason Company A has gone on for as long as it has is because only the owner and one manager are making decent wages; I am almost certain that I was not the only employee being underpaid for the work I was doing.  Unfortunately, despite the fact that I was not the only employee that would benefit from the minimum wage increase, because of my position I was the easiest to get rid of.

I was let go because of a “shortage of work.”

One of my coworkers showed up at my home during my holiday time off and handed me some severance checks that were being given to me in lieu of notice.

Every single person I have told this story to finds it suspicious that this “shortage of work” coincided perfectly with the timing of the minimum wage increase.  I find it even more suspicious given that I was assigned a number of large projects in December that I was supposed to continue working on in the new year – all this on top of my regular work, which was more than enough to keep me busy well into 2019.  There was no shortage of work, but I am certain there was a shortage of money.

So now my only job is with Company B, and although they can still only offer me part time, I have never been happier.  The employee discounts did not get cut or reduced and continue to be amazing; at no point were there complaints about having to pay employees more; my hours are not getting cut but are on par with what I was initially promised (in fact, I’ve even been getting more hours than what I was promised); my new boss and coworkers are amazing and supportive people that I am really enjoying working with; and finally, there appear to be no plans to punish employees/customers due to this wage increase.

I think it is absolutely appalling that companies are punishing their employees for wanting to earn enough to live.  I am disgusted by the actions of Company A, and I am absolutely thrilled that I no longer have to work for a company that does not take care of their employees.  I am beyond grateful for Company B and I will continue to work hard for them.  After being so unhappy with my job for over a year and a half, it is such a relief to finally have a job that I am happy to go to in the morning.  And yes, it is a part-time food service job that pays minimum wage and is not in my preferred field, but it is with a company that cares about their employees and right now that I all that matters.

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