Photo by Yeshi Kangrang

You might be surprised that there are many in the business community who support workers’ rights and a $15 minimum wage – the one planned for January 1, 2019 that now looks to be on the chopping block.

High road employers – those who choose to invest in employees, and support improvements like the ones we saw last year in Bill 148, are not the loudest, or most entrenched voice. But we are here. We are many. And we are on a mission to lead by example, and show other business owners that there is a better way.

Mahamad Elmi is the owner of Istar Restaurant on Dixon Road in Etobicoke. The restaurant has 15 staff, operate 24/7 and serves up East African, Italian, and North American cuisine.

A central spot for events and catering, they have been a fixture of the community since 1999. They spoke out in support of the increased minimum wage last year, and now the bump to $15/hour.

“Costs are going up and it’s not fair for the workers to have less than they need,” he told me.”

“They’re the ones that make you grow. You have to take care of them. Without them you’re not going to be there.”

I represent the Better Way Alliance, a group of business owners in Ontario who think similarly about getting the minimum wage up to $15/hour. Ultimately we believe that people who earn enough money to pay the bills, and perhaps save a little, will be more loyal to our businesses. And we want all businesses to rise to this level, and
compete fairly with each other.

We would like to focus on teaching businesses how to truly invest in their employees for long term profitability. It’s not just about wages and benefits, but about respect, empowerment, and communication.

But as a starting point, appropriate wages and benefits – decent work – must be achieved.

The bigger business lobbies do not speak for all.

(In fact a Campaign Research study last year found that more than 60% of small business owners in Ontario support a $15 minimum wage or higher. So we know there are many of us, most already paying more than
the minimum.)

There is a better way to do business, and it does pay off. The success of businesses like ours – including Istar Restaurant in Etobicoke – are the proof.

Gilleen Pearce, owner, Walk My Dog Toronto, and spokesperson, Better Way Alliance

The Better Way Alliance is a network of Ontario business owners who consider employee well-being a smart investment, for our long-term profitability and the health of Canada’s economy.