Sunday, 7 September 2014

Deeper Thoughts From Behind the Bar . . . . .

Something in my personal life made me look up my Province's minimum wage laws again the other day.  The General Minimum wage in Ontario jumped 75 cents in June pushing it up to $11 per hour.


"How awesome is that?" I was heard saying numerous times to numerous people.  For me, it was a "power to the people" moment in my own lifetime.  I expect to see many of these to be honest.  The shift is in progress. Dominoes are already falling.  I think of a great great writer and his words and I hereby challenge them.  I say that 2014-15 is the year that will truly be described as follows:


"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." ~Charles Dickens "A Tale of Two Cities".


Ponder those words for a bit.  Do you keep up with world news the way I do?  There are some very interesting correlations there don't you think?  Without a doubt, possibly the best of times, and unfortunately also quite possibly the worst of times.  But I will live to see it and if you're reading this you likely will too. Smile.  This is a good thing.  


So back to the bar and the minimum wage thing and the power and the people.  I serve alcohol.  That is my job, I am a tender of the bar.  I paid to take a course to be given the right to be this thing, this friend, this light at the end of a long-ass work day.  I always wanted to tend bar in Scotland.  Man ... those Scots know about havin' a bevvy after work.  For many it's a daily ritual.  I experienced this in 2005 when I visited Scotland.  For months after coming home I tried to find a way to go back there to work for a year.  Of course I may have had a very stark surprise if my dream had come true back then.


You see in Europe, Bar Tenders get paid more than they do here in North America.  Now I'm not sure if that's because they're serving an addictive, mind-altering substance or because the habit of Tipping isn't so common there.  I've always wondered if that has an effect on the economy.  I mean, if we here in Canada didn't Tip as much or as often as we do, would our Economy be better because we'd have more money for material things?  Who knows.  That's a great social study that needs to be done in my opinion.


Even knowing this, I wanted to go there to tend bar.  I was convinced that my personality and genuine kind nature would intrigue my custies to fill that Tip cup~ that is if I were allowed to put one out.  In 2005, Bar tenders in Scotland were making the equivalent of $12 per hour here.  That was 9 years ago.  Almost a decade.


So what is the Tipping wage here?  Well as I learned last summer upon calling our awesome employment standards hotline, they don't wanna talk tips.  They don't care about tips and they DO NOT consider tips to be a part of your wage.  So I remember this convo, and it was like Groundhog Day the movie in a telephone call.  It was a vicious circle of really good training and word-control.  It went something like this:


Me:  Just so I understand, the reason the Liquor Serving wage is less is because I make tips?
ES:  No ma'am, Tips are not part of your wage.
Me:  So, why is it that I make less?
ES:  Because you serve alcohol.
Me:  And ...if tips aren't wages then why do I make less?  (I was sooooo sure I could get her to say ‘because you get TIPS’)
ES:  That's what Liquor serving wage is ma'am.
Me:  But WHY do I make less to serve alcohol?
ES:  Because that's the new Liquor serving wage.


I think she may have been a Surrogate ... y'know ... a ro-bot. :-)


So here I am again ... asking the same question.  Why do I get paid less money to serve an addictive, mind-altering substance than I would if I served Hamburgers? Or Tobacco? Or Gasoline?  I don't need a Smart Serve Certificate to sell French fries though I'd make $1.45 more per hour.  And too many French Fries don't make you belligerent. That's right peeps ... the new Liquor Serving wage in Ontario is still under $10 though if I give you one too many drinks, you can sue me for everything I'm worth.  And then you can sue the bar I work at who will then fire me, and likely try to sue me too.


Tell me Canada, do we have a DUI problem?  According to statistics, humans in general have an issue with Alcohol.  Do you think societal respect and remuneration of those who serve alcohol has anything to do with this problem?  Honestly, when the gauntlet that measures your blood-alcohol level comes down, everything changes.  The Bar Tender who was your buddy, is now a dink and a buzz-kill, and thinks you're drunk.  Would people stop thinking we're jerks simply because we ask who is the Designated Driver if society in general knew we had a license to do what we do?  I almost attained a license to cut hair too.  Sheesh ... I'd make a lot more per hour if I had completed that apprenticeship!!  Damn you hindsight and your stupid 20/20 !!


I know that in the scope of things, minimum wage laws aren't big news right now.  And if I sat down with my Provincial MP Sophie Kiwala to talk about this, she'd think I was out-to-lunch.  But it will eventually come down to this, this tiny micro view of one group~and others like it~of integral spokes in the workforce wheel. Eventually we will see that if we want all the everybodies to take part in growing the economy, we may have to start paying them more than this meager minimum wage.  Studies have been done, and minimum wages are Engineering poverty.  Also, little loopholes where businesses are allowed to pay new hires less than minimum wage this year, for positions that paid minimum wage last year, should be ceased.  Gas is more expensive this year than last, as is food, clothing, meds, my rent alone is going up $60 this year.  Progress means that each year a certain job should make a wee bit more.  I mean, if you profit, then you should in my opinion be mandated to give raises.


Funny .... my oldest sis gets confused by me.  She has said to me, "I don't understand you Di, you seem so anti-Government, and yet you say things like this, which calls for more Government oversight."


I say, "Exactly!  I'm not anti-Government, I'm anti CORRUPT Government!  I'm anti Government who is anti the people!  There's a difference!!  Instead of oversight to ensure we've paid all our dues, attained all of our licenses, and paid all of our taxes, we need Government who wants to help the general public.  Take taxes from the corporations and Banks who are posting killer profits every single quarter!"

It's simply a very slippery slope. I fear the day when Donut and Coffee shops can start serving alcohol. I bet they're trying every thing they can right now to get Liquor Licensed. They'd save themselves $1.45 an hour per employee. Chaaaa-ching!!!


In my opinion we all need more Government oversight to ensure that we're being treated fairly at work, in life, health, in going out to dinner or a drink or a movie!  For instance, if there is no more "Tipping Wage" in Canada, and a person is a waiter in an UNLICENSED establishment, how much are they getting paid per hour??


This Enquiring mind wants to know.  But ... I don't wanna have to call the bot again :-)  So if you find out, let me know k?