Fighting for a $15 minimum wage in British Columbia

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On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Irene Lanzinger. She is the president of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, which is spearheading the B.C. version of the Fight for $15 campaign to raise the minimum wage that is sweeping across North America.

It has been a long time since a good job with a good wage for everyone who wants one was a default mainstream public policy goal. Under the camouflage of euphemisms like "labour market flexibility," the consistent direction under governments of all (mainstream) political stripes, in all corners of the developed world, has for many years now been away from full employment as a goal and towards policies that mean that more and more of the jobs that do exist are not good ones. These kinds of changes, which have meant that an increasing proportion of the work that makes our society function happens under low-wage and precarious conditions, are part of the neoliberal shift that has increased inequality, enriched the rich, and further impoverished working people over the last three decades or so.

Yet however tight the grip of neoliberal thinking on elites in North America, including many of those who dress in progressive garb, the idea that working a full-time job should be enough to assure that you don't live in poverty still has broad resonance among ordinary people. This is the basis for the rapid spread of the "Fight for 15" as a slogan and as a set of parallel, on-the-ground campaigns. From its beginning among workers in the fast food sector in parts of the United States, these efforts to lift minimum wage to $15/hour have spread far and wide. Not only that, they have been winning victories, from partial gains like a very modest increase in the federal minimum wage in the United States, to full achievement of the $15/hour goal in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

In British Columbia, that province's Federation of Labour plus a coalition of allied organizations in the community have taken on a central role in the fight to raise the minimum wage there from $10.25 to $15. Lanzinger talks with me about the need to raise the minimum wage, the details of the campaign in B.C., the reasons why unions -- most of whose members make more than that anyway -- see this as an important goal, and why scaremongering arguments against the increase coming from the business lobby just don't add up.

To learn more about the Fight for $15 in B.C., click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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