Uneven Engagement: Unions and the Living Wage in Ontario
There has been much activism – and much scholarly attention – devoted to the living wage in recent years. While scholars have provided valuable insight into how different organizations – including unions – have united behind living wage campaigns, there have been few detailed studies of just what labour leaders think about the living wage, especially in Canada. This is the first recent Canadian study to explore this question in depth: it is based on 20 interviews with local labour council executives from around Ontario. It reveals strong support for living wage campaigns and a belief that they should be a high priority for the labour movement. However, the extent of labour’s actual engagement in these campaigns was found to be uneven. Unionists were notably open-minded when it came to strategies used by living wage campaigns, and overwhelmingly favoured taking the cause into the political realm. But union leaders often cast this cause as somewhat removed from their own bargaining, and they were split about the benefits for unions in reaching out to non-unionized workers. There was also a significant sense of pessimism in the answers, about the many problems faced by labour, and the prospects for serious change.
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