BC ACORN

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New West Newsleader: New West city council adopts living wage bylaw

April 28th, 2010 by A Flemming - New Westminster Newsleader

The Royal City notched up one for the history books on Monday by becoming the first city in Canada to adopt a living wage bylaw.

In a unanimous city council vote, a motion passed that will direct both city employees and contract employees to be paid at or above an hourly wage substantially higher than the current provincial minimum wage.

The term “living wage” is used to describe the minimum hourly wage necessary for a family of four with two parents working full-time to meet the necessities of life. In Metro Vancouver, it is currently calculated to be $16.74 per hour.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy, who initially brought forward the motion, said the city was especially concerned about child poverty.

“In British Columbia, half of children who are currently living below the poverty line have a parent working full-time,” said McEvoy. “We don’t want to be like Scrooge and have employees struggling to take care of their families. It is the right thing to do.”

“We live in a city that has the lowest average income in the GVRD,” said Coun. Bill Harper. “What we’re doing is setting an example and maybe other cities and corporations will do the same.”

The new bylaw is similar to those taken up in over 140 American cities after a recent campaign by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), whose local chapter turned in a petition to city hall with the signatures of 1200 New West residents supporting the initiative.

Maple Ridge News: Municipalities to look at living wage

March 4st, 2010 by Phil Malnychuk - Maple Ridge News

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows soon could have their own versions of the living wage bylaw, adopted for the first time in Canada last week by New Westminster.

The bylaw, passed unanimously by New Westminster council, requires all workers, either those directly employed, or working for a company contracted out by the city, be paid $16.74 an hour.

The term “living wage” is used to describe the minimum hourly wage necessary for a family of four with two parents working full-time to meet the necessities of life. In Metro Vancouver, it is currently calculated to be $16.74 per hour.

That’s well above the $8 an hour minimum wage that’s been in place in B.C. for the past decade.

The topic is on its way to Maple Ridge’s social planning advisory committee, said Coun. Linda King, while Pitt Meadows Coun. Bruce Bell will raise it with his councillors.

Coun. Craig Speirs wants the item discussed.

“I intend to bring this up. I’m not sure how far it would go.

“I think we should be talking about what a living wage looks like. “It also needs a broader discussion, about a society that’s obsessed with the bottom line. He cited the ongoing labour dispute involving Extra Foods on Dewdney Trunk Road as an example.

“I think $16 for anybody who works for the District of Maple Ridge is not an onerous amount.”

Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean was not keen on the idea.

 

Tri-Cities News: More pay, more taxes: a win/win

June 18th, 2010 by Mary Woo-Sims - Tri-Cities News

FACE TO FACE: Should cities dictate ‘living wage’ as New Westminster has?

Congratulations to New Westminster city council, which in late April voted in Canada’s first “living wage” bylaw. This bylaw effectively raised the minimum wage paid by the municipality to about $16. 70 — more than double the minimum wage in B.C.

According to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, “a living wage is a level of pay which enables someone working full-time to earn enough to meet their basic needs and build some savings for the future.”

B.C.’s current minimum wage of $8 an hour can hardly meet one person’s basic needs, let alone a person who might be supporting a family. The movement for a living wage, which started in the U.S., has now branched into Canada and cities across the country are being asked to adopt living wage policies. New West is the first to do so.

My colleague says the living wage is a nice sentiment but it is taxpayers that have to foot the bill. But he doesn’t stop there. He’s critical of the law because it’s “another manifestation of special treatment for unionized city workers.” I take issue with that statement.

When people like my friend opposite complain about public sector or unionized workers’ wages, I wonder if these same people think these workers are exempt from paying taxes. I am glad workers, unionized or not, get as much pay as they can. The more they earn, the more taxes they pay. In addition, the more money earned, the more is spent on family, friends, goods, services, facilities, etc., and that spending keeps our economy going.

New West’s living wage law doesn’t just apply to unionized workers. The living wage also applies to workers with firms, unionized or not, that receive contracts from the city as well as companies that receive economic development funds. This ensures the living wage initiative extends far beyond the reaches of New West city workers.

Fundamentally, however, one can’t discuss the concept of a living wage without discussing the issue of B.C.’s minimum wage, which now ranks as the lowest in Canada. And let’s not forget that first-job/entry level position minimum wages start at a paltry six bucks an hour.

It’s time to make the minimum wage a living wage.

 

New West Record: Living wage policy draws kudos from across nation

March 1st, 2010 by Theresa McManus - New Westminster's The Record

The City of New Westminster is getting kudos from poverty and health groups from across Canada after becoming the first Canadian city to agree to establish a living wage policy.

A living wage is often defined as being the minimum hourly wage that's necessary for a family of four, with two parents working full-time, to pay for food, shelter and other daily needs. City council voted unanimously to support a living wage policy that's tied to an hourly rate established annually by the Living Wage for Families campaign.

"New Westminster is the first city in Western Canada - why not be the first city in other things as well," said Coun. Jaimie McEvoy. "The pioneers would be proud."

After representatives from ACORN Canada - the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now - asked council to adopt a living wage bylaw, McEvoy encouraged council to consider the issue. He didn't know if it would fly, but he thought it would at least initiate dialogue.

McEvoy has received a lot of reaction to Monday's decision, almost all of it positive. The Canadian Cancer Society applauded the decision, saying poverty is one of the determinants of health, while the Canada Without Poverty organization said the living wage movement is a step toward ending poverty in Canada.

Child Care in Crisis!

 

ACORN members are concerned that the BC government has made deep cuts to child care and a service badly needed by families in our community. Studies show spending on child care programs and early learning is an investment that returns $2 for every $1 invested.  We are calling on the BC government to commit to adequate funding for a community-controlled, universal and quality child care system.

  • ACORN members are calling for the following issues be addressed:The income threshold for an average family of four is increased to accommodate the current realities of “working-poor” parents. This will allow more deserving parents to access the child care subsidy, and will prevent working parents from being cut off subsidy after a small rise to their incomes.
  • Access to child care subsidy services must be more readily available to the general public. Many parents are unaware of the subsidy and do not know where to go to get help.
  • The application process to apply for subsidy be simplified.

ACORN members and working mother of two is exasperated about the cut backs to services regarding child care subsides at the ministrys’ office: “Five to six years ago, you could walk into a social assistance office if you were low income and talk to a worker about subsidy eligibility and applications. These days, the services have been cut or farmed out to limited non-profit offices in the lower mainland."


News Leader: What constitutes a fair wage?

There’s an old saying that if you pay peanuts, you’re going to attract monkeys, but Gordon Campbell clearly doesn’t see things that way.

There are currently no plans to increase the $8-an-hour minimum wage his government introduced back in 2001, the same year he implemented the Dickensian “First Job/Entry Level” minimum wage policy of $6 per hour for new employees with less than 500 total hours of previous work experience.

Most would agree the province’s minimum wage is not even close to being a living wage as it is pretty much impossible to live on $16,000, the net annual income for someone working a 40-hour week.

To some extent, the onus is falling on municipalities to pick up the slack.

Burnaby city council has implemented a policy that all city contractors have to pay their construction workers a union-equivalent “Fair Wage” while New Westminster is considering becoming the first municipality in Canada to adopt a “Living Wage” bylaw that would pay all municipal workers hourly wages substantially higher than the bare provincial minimum.

EMC: Ease taxing times at Vanier's free tax clinic

In terms of filing your taxes, that is.

For the second year in a row, the Vanier-based activist group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) will be hosting a free tax clinic through the tax season. The office fully opened up at ACORN HQ at 81 Montréal Road, Unit F, on Tuesday, March 2, and runs until Saturday, May 15. Tax filing day is Friday, April 30.

While Acorn offered a satellite tax filing office in Hintonburg in the west end last year, the operations have been centralized in Vanier for this year.

"It's better to have it concentrated in one location. All of our information is here," said Centretown resident Matthew Bullock is the group's tax site coordinator, during the media launch for the program on the morning of Friday, February 19.

The Province: Protesters demand improved child care for poor

B.C.'s child care subsidy program is not working for the working poor of Surrey, says community group B.C. ACORN.

Sara Salaway, a Surrey mom who heads B.C. ACORN's child care committee, led a protest Tuesday outside the Surrey office of the Ministry of Children and Families.

"The working poor looking for child care, it's a difficult task," Salaway, a mother-of-two, told The Province.

She said child care costs are typically $700 to $900 a month and the government subsidy -- which ranges from $200 up to $750 per month -- is not available for families earning more than $38,000.

"If they make more than [the threshold] they don't quality for any kind of help," she said.

Salaway also said it's hard for families to find out information about the subsidy program, and wants to make it easier to obtain. "It's word of mouth," she said. "You need to know the services are out there."

Next month, B.C. ACORN intends to ask the City of Surrey to open a municipal-run childcare centre, which would be run as a pilot program by the municipality, in a partnership with the community.

Early Living Wage Campaign Win

BC ACORN members are celebrating this week after a vote on New Westminster City Council in support of investigating a Living Wage Bylaw for the municipality.  The vote, held on Nov 30th at New Westminster City Hall, instructs City staff to investigate the costs, benefits and viability of a Living Wage Bylaw by February 2010. 

Led by Councilor Jamie McEvoy, New Westminster has joined the ranks of Canadian municipalities looking at enacting Living Wage Bylaws – and may be even the furthest along.  BC ACORN members along with allies plan on working with City staff to ensure the report they submit back to council appreciates the full benefit of a Living Wage Bylaw.

If New Westminster were to pass a Living Wage Bylaw, it would be the first Canadian municipality to do so after over 100 American municipalities.  ACORN members will be holding events over to coming months in support of the campaign and their vision of a fair and equitable BC for all.

Living Wage Campaign Launch

BC ACORN along with allies from Labour and Community groups will be hosting a campaign launch for the New Westminster Living Wage Campaign.

The campaign aims to win a municipal bylaw in New Westminster that would require that a business receiving tax dollars to pay their employee’s a living wage. Living Wage bylaws are used in over 100 American jurisdictions and aim to end the practice of using tax payer dollars to subsidized poverty wages.

The Campaign launch is happening at New Westminster City Hall (511 Royal Avenue, New Westminster) October the 17th at Noon. We hope we can see you there.

There are currently several Canadian municipalities at different stages of evaluating Living Wage Bylaws for possible implementation. For more info on Living Wage Campaigns check out the Living Wage Resource Centre at: http://www.livingwages.ca.

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