By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – With signs held high and placards in hand, protestors gave morning coffee goers a wake-up call – before any caffeine was poured.
© Adam Brazeau
Mario Ortiz (second from left) and Mandy Parent (last on right) stand at the Cornwall & District Labour Council protest demonstration to raise awareness about the minimum wage freeze and have it raised to $14/an hour. This was part of a province-wide protest aimed at big chain companies who provide low-paying jobs.
Cornwall & District Labour Council president Elaine MacDonald rallied with supporters at a minimum wage protest aimed at large corporate chains, such as Tim Hortons and McDonald's.
MacDonald and the group of two-dozen workers and students are part of a province-wide call to action for profitable corporations to hike up wages to ensure their employees aren’t living under the poverty line. They filled the corners of Second Street and Glengarry Boulevard with protest chants, as cars honked driving by.
The current minimum wage is $10.25 and has been frozen for over three years.
“Sadly, if you’re making $10.25/an hour, even if you’re working full-time, at the end of the week, you’re coming home with money that leaves you 19 per cent below the poverty level in Canada,” said MacDonald. “We simply think that anybody who works full-time should be able to afford the rent and food on the table and at the current minimum wage you can’t do that.”
MacDonald said the labour council has done studies examining the cost of living and $14/an hour will allow workers to be 10 per cent above the poverty level.
“Why we’re here on this particular spot is the McDonald’s and Tim Hortons corporate leadership belongs to the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) which is actively lobbying the government to keep wages down,” said MacDonald. “A lot of people think that if the wage goes up, it will hurt mom and pop operations and small corner stores. We’re here targeting big businesses that are extremely profitable.”
Protestor and St. Lawrence College student Mandy Parent, 23, showed up with two other students to ensure the message was heard loud and clear.
“I think this is a little more important than sleeping in,” said Parent. “I’m hoping more people will be aware. A lot of people don’t know that minimum wage has been frozen for years and we’re here to do something about it.”
Parent marched up and down with fellow protestors, chanting for a minimum wage increase, from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m., while the city got its coffee fix.
She said she has friends and family who are struggling with multiple jobs to pay their bills.
Mario Ortiz, 25, has two part-time jobs and runs a landscaping business, but still feels the pinch of low-paying jobs.
“I have to work this many jobs just to make end’s meet,” said Ortiz. “We need to raise minimum wage and we need to raise awareness. There shouldn’t be one thing you can pay people.”