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The CBO: Working the refs

By Five Thirty Eight

A good rule of thumb in sports is that the team that’s complaining about the referees isn’t the team that’s winning the game. So what should we make of it when one team suggests abolishing referees altogether?

The “referee” in this analogy is the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan agency tasked with evaluating the fiscal and policy impacts of proposed legislation. Republicans, both in Congress and the White House, have loudly criticized the CBO in recent months over its analysis of their health care plan. White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney took that criticism to a new level this week, however, when he implied that it might be time to kill off the CBO, at least in its present form. “At some point, you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Has the day of the CBO come and gone?’” Mulvaney said to the Washington Examiner.

The source of Mulvaney’s frustration is the CBO’s report last week estimating that the health care overhaul passed by the House would increase the ranks of the uninsured by 23 million people by 2026, among other effects. Republicans dispute those findings, although they are generally consistent with estimates from outside analysts (including, reportedly, those of the agency Mulvaney runs, the Office of Management and Budget).

There is a long, bipartisan tradition of complaining about the CBO. And the agency’s analyses have been far from perfect. It initially overestimated how many people would sign up for the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces, for example. Overall, however, the CBO’s analysis of Obamacare turned out to be pretty good and better than most private estimates. And despite their carping over specific estimates, congressional leaders of both parties have historically seen an advantage to having an agreed-upon scorekeeper.

In his Washington Examiner interview, Mulvaney implied that the CBO had strayed from its bipartisan roots and was trying to make the Republicans’ health bill look bad. What he didn’t mention is that the CBO’s director, Keith Hall, served in the George W. Bush administration and was chosen by Republican leaders in Congress. Among those leaders was Tom Price, then the chairman of the House Budget Committee, who at the time praised Hall’s “impressive level of economic expertise.” Price, of course, is now secretary of health and human services and is President Trump’s point person on health care reform.

Health care: Changes from within

While Republican plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act simmer in the Senate, the Department of Health and Human Services has been busy drafting its own changes to how the law is carried out. While Congress writes, and possibly repeals, the bills, the interpretation and implementation of the law are largely up to federal agencies. In the case of Obamacare, that means HHS, and under Trump, it has already introduced several changes to the marketplaces that serve people who don’t get insurance from an employer or a public program. Those changes include shortening the enrollment period, allowing insurers to sell plans that pay for fewer services, and giving the private sector more leeway to sell ACA policies. HHS has also encouraged states to apply for waivers that would place work requirements on some Medicaid recipients or allow states to cover some of the costs of the most expensive enrollees.

Now, the department is apparently taking on one of the most controversial, and popular, of the Obamacare rules, the contraceptive mandate. The ACA requires most companies to offer insurance to their employees, and that insurance must cover a wide range of contraceptives with no co-pay or additional charge to enrollees. According to documents obtained by Vox, the draft policy would allow any company to seek a moral or religious exemption from that contraceptive mandate. As a result, more women would likely have to pay out-of-pocket for contraceptives. That would be a step beyond the existing policy, which grants some nonprofits and companies an accommodation — their plans still have to cover contraceptives at no cost to enrollees, but insurers pick up the cost rather than the companies. As Alina Salganicoff, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, noted, about 10 percent of large nonprofits currently use the accommodation; it’s not clear how many would take advantage of the opportunity to drop birth-control coverage entirely.

Research has shown that the mandate has saved women a lot of money since the ACA passed. Historically, contraceptives have been estimated to make up 30 percent to 44 percent of out-of-pocket health-care expenditures for women. That decreased dramatically with the ACA, saving women who use an IUD or birth control pills around $250 a year. The rule change hasn’t been made official, but the draft shows that HHS has the power to make some pretty substantial changes to the health insurance landscape, regardless of what happens to Obamacare in Congress.

Immigration: Conflicting priorities

The federal budget that the Trump administration released last week relies on projections of economic growth that most experts consider unrealistic. One factor that could make it even harder for Trump to achieve his goals: his own immigration policies.

Trump, of course, ran on a platform of strict immigration enforcement, and he has made good on those promises so far. There has been a dramatic uptick in immigration arrests since Trump took office, and he has requested billions of dollars to improve border security and ramp up immigration enforcement.

Those policies, however, could be taking a toll on the economy. At an event at the Council on Foreign Relations this week, Robert Kaplan, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said there is anecdotal evidence that immigrants have become more reluctant to spend money. “They are not going out and shopping. They are staying home,” Kaplan said. “They’re afraid if they go out they may not come home.” Kaplan said it’s too soon to see any such trend in the data, but if it’s real, the effect wouldn’t be trivial: Immigrants had over $900 billion dollars in disposable income in 2014. (Kaplan isn’t the only one expressing concern. In April, 1,470 economists signed a letter to the president emphasizing the economic benefits immigration brings the country.)

Kaplan also highlighted another, potentially even bigger issue: the labor force. One reason that economists are so skeptical of the White House’s economic projections is that the American labor force is growing slowly as baby boomers retire and relatively few young workers come of age thanks to Americans’ low birth rates. Without immigrants, though, the situation would be much worse: The Pew Research Center estimates that without immigrants (both those already here and those expected to arrive in coming years), the U.S. workforce would shrink over the next two decades. Some industries that rely substantially on immigrant workers, such as construction and farming, are particularly worried about Trump’s immigration crackdown, though he has insisted enforcement efforts would not harm those industries.

“Immigrants and their children have made up over half the workforce growth in the country over the last 20 years,” said Kaplan said at the CFR event. “So if we do things that limit sensible immigration, we are likely to slow [gross domestic product].”

The environment: Going it alone

On Thursday, Trump formally announced that the U.S. would be withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement — a fact that had essentially been established in March, when he canceled the Obama executive orders that were meant to fulfill our commitments to that agreement. This marks the second time in as many decades that the U.S. has signed on to an international plan to fight climate change, only to later call backsies on the deal. (In 2001, under President George W. Bush, the U.S. pulled out of the Kyoto climate treaty, which had been signed by Bill Clinton’s administration but was never submitted to the Senate for approval.)

Luke Kemp, an Australian social scientist who studies international climate negotiations, saw this coming. Even before Trump was elected, Kemp said in an interview, it was obvious what was going to happen to the Paris deal. American commitment to the deal was based on an executive order, meaning that all it would take to stop complying was for a different president to take office — and even if a Democrat had been elected last year and left the orders in place, it was inevitable that the White House would eventually shift back to the Republicans, who would likely revoke the order. In May of 2016, Kemp published a paper outlining this problem and discussing how the international community might go about crafting future climate agreements that account for American flakiness and could survive without our involvement. He believes his is the first academic paper to deal with this issue, but he doesn’t think it will be the last. “When I wrote the paper, I framed it as an idealistic measure. Highly unlikely. But now it doesn’t seem all that unlikely, does it?” he said.

Kemp expects China and the European Union to take over from the U.S. as the prime movers on climate negotiations and to pursue deals that aren’t predicated on American participation. And that could have big economic consequences for the U.S. That’s because trade penalties are one of the primary mechanisms that international treaties, including environmental agreements, use to prevent countries that don’t participate from freeloading off the work of others. For example, the Montreal Protocol, a 1989 deal to reduce emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals, forbade its signatories from trading in those chemicals with countries that weren’t part of the agreement. In a climate agreement, a similar penalty might require the U.S. to pay carbon-based taxes on any goods we sold to member countries. In other words, the U.S. can free itself from international agreements, but not from international power.

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In praise of Trump pulling out of the Paris climate pact

By Ken Ward. This article was first published on The Hill.

To the dismay of our allies, the White House could any day announce the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But as a patriot and climate activist, I’m not dismayed. I actually want to pull out.

The value of the Paris Agreement is in its aspirational goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, not in its implementation mechanisms, which are voluntary, insufficient, and impossible to monitor. But that modest goal will be breached shortly, which makes the agreement a kind of fig leaf, offering political cover to those who would soft-pedal the runaway climate crisis a while longer.

The U.N. Conference of the Parties is certainly not the organization to constrain powerful, retrenched fossil fuel interests and other bad climate actors and rogue climate states. The Paris agreement affords oil, gas and coal companies a globally visible platform through which to peddle influence and appear engaged on climate change while lobbying for business as usual. That won’t save the climate.

At what point do we give up wishful, incremental thinking — that reason will prevail, the free market will adjust, the president’s daughter and son-in-law will dissuade him from the worst climaticide, the Democratic Party will do something, or prior policies which tinker on the margins like the Clean Power Plan won’t be totally obliterated?  

I’d argue we’ve reached that point. If Trump withdraws from the Paris Agreement, at least we will have clarity instead of false hope.

Who wanted to keep the U.S. in the Paris agreement anyway? People around the world, a majority of Americans, environmentalists and other coastal elites — constituencies for which Trump has shown indifference and/or contempt. Staying in was also favored by Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Peabody coal, eBay, HP, General Mills, Kellogg, Tesla and other multinationals the Trump administration would have preferred to keep happy. But let’s face it, they won’t be all that mad the U.S. is pulling out, and the political impact won’t be all that great.

Neither will the environmental impact. In fact, since the agreement lacks teeth, breaking it won’t have any effect on the climate in the short term. But in the longer term, the shock and rethinking it will cause in some circles just might precipitate political and cultural changes we need to stave off climate cataclysm.

Pulling out of Paris will also give the president a political boost. It gives Breitbart and Fox something to crow about and The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN something that’s not Russia-gate to fret over. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to justify or abet Trump and his supporters in climate denial, and I’m not thinking climate activists and the Trump administration will end up in some the kind of strange-bedfellows embrace. Personally, I loathe this administration and find the president’s actions mean, maleficent, and mendacious, though it’s nothing personal. On my very best days I can eke out a couple minutes of meta loving-kindness meditation for the president as a person, but it’s a struggle.

I welcome pulling out of the Paris agreement because it will disrupt our complacency and strengthen the most vigorous avenues of climate action left to us, which are through the courts and direct citizen action. It lends much more credence to the Our Children's Trust legal argument  that the federal government has utterly failed in its responsibility to consider the long-term impact of carbon emissions. It advances the arguments of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund in their federal lawsuit for the right to a livable climate. And it strengthens the case for climate activists attempting to raise the “necessity defense” as a justification for citizen climate action, as I and my fellow “valve turners” are doing as we face criminal charges for shutting off emergency valves on oil sands pipelines.

It’s also true that withdrawal from Paris deprives mainstream environmental organizations and the foundations and funders that guide them of a key deliverable, and that could risk eroding support for them. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Many of them have pursued an utterly bankrupt strategy of understating the climate problem, negotiating with the fossil fuel industry, and cherry-picking small victories to showcase organizational accomplishments at the expense of a functional movement strategy.

Pulling out of Paris takes false hopes off the table, and opens the way for building an effective climate movement. So as committed climate activist who knows we’re running out of time, I say, let’s get on with it.

Ken Ward is a former deputy director of Greenpeace going on trial next week on felony charges for shutting down an oil sands pipeline to prevent harm to the climate.

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Syria Airstrikes Instantly Added Nearly $5 Billion to Missile-Makers’ Stock Value

Jen Wieczner. This article was first published on Fortune.
Raytheon stock surged Friday morning, after 59 of the company's Tomahawk missiles were used to strike Syria in Donald Trump's first major military operation as President.

Trump ordered the airstrike on the Syrian government Thursday night in retaliation for a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier this week that killed as many as 100 people. The U.S. blamed the attack on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Tomahawk missile used in the strike is made by Raytheon (rtn, +1.47%), whose stock opened 2.5% higher Friday, adding more than $1 billion to the defense contractor's market capitalization.

The shares of other missile and weapons manufacturers, including Boeing (ba, +0.83%), Lockheed Martin (lmt, +1.17%), Northrop Grumman (noc, +0.90%) and General Dynamics (gd, +0.93%), each rose as much as 1%, collectively gaining nearly $5 billion in market value as soon as they began trading, even as the broader market fell.

(All major U.S. stock market indexes dropped slightly in morning trading after the release of the weakest monthly jobs report in almost a year, which increased doubts about the strength of the American economy.)

The technology and equipment of the defense companies, which all have lucrative contracts with the U.S. government, was likely also used in Trump's airstrikes on Syria. Lockheed Martin, for example, makes the Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System, one part of a three-pronged system needed to launch the missile; the product calculates the trajectory from a ship to the target. General Dynamics also makes technology used to fire Tomahawk missiles.

Boeing, meanwhile, makes other types of cruise missiles.

Defense contractor stocks have risen in the months since Trump was elected, spurred by his promises of a "historic" increase in U.S. military spending. The budget Trump proposed last month includes an additional $52 billion for the Department of Defense. Boeing stock has gained nearly 21% since the election, while General Dynamics stock is up 14% over the same period. (The S&P 500 has risen roughly 11% since election day.)

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The Essential Pundit Take: ‘Trump Became President’ by Bombing Syria

By Jim Naureckas. This article was first published on FAIR.

Fareed Zakaria on Trump airstrikes

Fareed Zakaria: Presidents “don’t need to go to a pesky Congress every time they want military force.”

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States” last night, CNN host Fareed Zakaria said when asked about the significance of Trump’s airstrikes on Syria (New Day, 4/7/17). “I think this was actually a big moment.”

His explanation is worth quoting at length for its distillation of the classic pundit attitude toward presidential violence:

Because candidate Trump had said that he would never get involved in the Syrian civil war. He told President Obama, you cannot do this without the authorization of Congress. He seemed unconcerned with global norms.

President Trump recognized that the president of the United States does have to act to enforce international norms, does have to have this broader moral and political purpose. President Trump realized, as every president has for many decades now, that presidents always believe they have inherent legal authority as commander in chief. And they don’t need to go to a pesky Congress every time they want military force.

It’s entirely true that candidate Trump felt differently. Candidate Obama felt differently than President Obama on these issues.

So I think that what is interesting is even the way in which he justified his actions, President Trump did–for the first time, really, as president, he talked about international norms, international rules, about America’s role in enforcing justice in the world. It was the kind of rhetoric that we have come to expect from American presidents since Harry Truman, but it was the kind of rhetoric that President Trump had pointedly never used, either on the campaign trail nor in his inaugural.

So I think there has been an interesting morphing and a kind of education of Donald Trump.

Note the assurance with which Zakaria insists that a military attack on a sovereign state, unauthorized by the United Nations and unjustifiable in terms of self-defense, signifies a new respect on Trump’s part for “global norms” and “international rules.” Clearly, for Zakaria as for most pundits, the norm is that international law does not apply to the president of the United States–a doctrine that is usually referred to by the euphemism “American exceptionalism.”

Note, too, the contempt with which Zakaria dismisses the idea that a “pesky Congress” should constrain a president’s ability to make war; who needs a constitutionally mandated declaration of war when you’ve got a “broader moral and political purpose”?

Zakaria’s remarks recalled the comment by CNN‘s Van Jones (2/28/17) after Trump celebrated the widow of a Navy SEAL who died in a botched raid in Yemen that killed nine children: Trump “did something tonight that you cannot take away from him. He became president of the United States.” They also recall the prediction made by Alex Pareene (The Concourse, 3/1/17) after the pundit reaction to that speech:

Now that Trump has learned that there is a direct relationship between a president’s body count and how “presidential” the mainstream political press considers him to be, the whole world is fucked.

But Zakaria also evoked a voice from an earlier generation of war punditry, the New York TimesR.W. Apple (12/21/89), who said after the elder President George Bush invaded Panama that Bush had completed

a presidential initiation rite [joining] American leaders who since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood to protect or advance what they construe as the national interest…. Panama has shown him as a man capable of bold action.

Apple (8/12/90) later praised Bush as “tough,” “determined” and “statesmanlike” after Bush warned following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait that “American soldiers and American hostages may have to die.” “In forceful terms, Mr. Bush sought to prepare the whole American nation for the prospect of bloodshed,” was how Apple put it.

MSNBC: Tomahawk missile

One of Brian Williams’ “beautiful” Tomahawk missiles on MSNBC.

Zakaria was not the only talking head striking nostalgic notes as he commented on the US’s latest violence. Brian Williams, reporting the breaking news on MSNBC (4/6/17), rhapsodized about the beauty of the Tomahawk missile:

We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.” And they are beautiful pictures, of fearsome armaments making what is, for them, a brief flight over this airfield.

Williams’ enthusiasm recalled the weapons fetishism of the 1991 Gulf War, which featured CNN (1/16/91) describing the “sweet beautiful sight” of bombers taking off from Saudi Arabia, and CBS correspondent Jim Stewart (1/17/91) raving about “two days of almost picture-perfect assaults.”

Jim Naureckas is the editor of You can find him on Twitter at @JNaureckas.

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$15 and Fairness Shakes Up Ontario

By David Bush. This article was first published on Socialist Project.

The Fight for $15 and Fairness scored a big victory on May 30 when the Ontario Liberals announced they would raise the minimum wage to $15 by January 1, 2019. The Liberals also announced a slew of other legislative changes they will introduce as part of the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, such as two paid personal emergency leave days (as part of the 10 PEL days workers are already entitled too), equal pay for equal work for part-time workers, requiring employees to be paid for three hours of work if their shift is cancelled within 48 hours, an additional week of paid vacation for employees who have been with a business for at least five years.

What Was Won

The minimum wage will go up to $15 in three stages. The scheduled rise to the minimum wage on October first from $11.40 to $11.60, which was the result of the legislation won in 2014 tying the minimum wage to inflation. On January 1, 2018 the minimum wage will go up to $14 and on January 1, 2019 the minimum wage will hit $15. The 18-month pathway to $15 is faster than that of Alberta's NDP and does not require legislation.

$15 and Fairness

675,000 minimum wage workers will see a 32 per cent increase in their wages. 130,000 union members will see a pay bump. Overall 1.5 million jobs will see a direct pay increase, women and racialized workers who disproportionately occupy low-waged jobs will see the greatest benefit.

In addition the Liberals have also outlined a series of reforms to the Ontario Labour Relations Act (OLRA) and the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) they plan to bring in through legislation: sector specific card-check certification (for temporary help agencies, building services, home care and community services), successor rights, stronger return to work protocols and just cause protections, interest on unpaid wages, stronger ESA, procedures, enforcement and penalties, longer family medical leave, making it easier to determine joint liability, and stronger language around employee misclassification.

Liberal Promises

The reforms in the Liberal's Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which was introduced on June 1, are a positive step forward for workers. But they remain only a step in the right direction. The reforms themselves fall short of what both labour and community groups are asking for. The absence of paid sick days, the lack of legislation around agricultural workers’ rights, a proposed 48 hour schedule penalty instead of a full-week's notice, only a narrow sector specific card check certification and the continued student and liquor service exemption from the minimum wage are significant shortcomings. Going forward there must be a fight for even stronger enforcement of the ESA, better protections for workers and making it easier for all workers to join a union.

We should remain vigilante when it comes to reading the fine print and looking at the timelines. There is a good chance much of what the Liberals promise could be watered down in committee or have lengthy timelines in their implementation. For instance the Liberal plan for card check certification in the temporary help agencies, building services, home care and community services sectors won't be rolled out until a mere 10 weeks before the election. Other reforms to the ESA and OLRA would not occur until after the 2018 election.

Labour must also watch for ways in which positive parts of the legislation, like the equal pay for part-time and full-time workers provision, could be used by employers to level down wages and standards instead of raising them up. Unions in low-wage sectors will also need to address the issue of the ESA reforms leap-frogging parts of their contract. For workers and unions, these can be characterized as good problems.

Organizing Gets the Goods

The proposed changes come after a sustained two-year effort by the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign, to push for positive reforms to the ESA and OLRA during the Liberal initiated Changing Workplaces Review (CWR).

The Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign, which grew out of the campaign to raise the minimum wage in 2013, saw early on the only way in which it was going to win positive reforms was by involving as many workers as possible in the struggle. Where employers had money, lobbyists and access to the media, low-wage workers had numbers and community. To this end the campaign forged a united front between unions, non-union workers, student groups, healthcare advocates, faith groups and community organizations that spoke to the concerns of the broader working class.

The outlook of the campaign was to treat the CWR as a chance for non-unionized workers to engage in a form of collective bargaining. Without access to a collective agreement the ESA for non-union workers was all that workers had and the campaign offered an avenue to leverage their political power to in effect bargain with the state.

The campaign, initially relatively small and perpetually under-resourced, aimed to draw in as many workers as possible across the province into the fight. It was not an insular or top-down campaign, but predicated on building leadership in all corners and at all levels. Active chapters existed in Windsor, Sudbury, North Bay, Guelph, Kingston, Niagara, London, Hamilton, Ottawa, Waterloo, Toronto and Ottawa, just to name a few places. These community chapters focused on doing public outreach via petitioning and fun creative actions. They engaged in lobbying, educationals and protests. The campaign also developed an active university and college network with campaigns on well over a dozen campuses.

The campaign also sunk roots into workplace struggles by linking up with bargaining campaigns and the OFL's side of the campaign, Make It Fair. Grocery store workers, librarians, airport workers and food service workers utilized the $15 and Fairness demands in their fights with employers. Food service workers with Unite Here Local 75 at York and University of Toronto achieved major strike victories by not only using the $15 and Fairness demands, but by working hand in glove with the campaign to build public sympathy for the workers by framing the strikes as a fight for all low-waged workers.

It should be remembered that the Liberals declared that the minimum wage was out of scope of the CWR and repeatedly stated there would be no increase. Some labour leaders were not supportive of the $15 minimum wage demand, stating it was unwinnable and not part of the CWR. The Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign shows that a well organized, disciplined, and strategic campaign that speaks to and activates the broader working class can defy the odds and achieve significant victories via legislation and at the bargaining table.

NDP and $15 and Fairness

The Ontario New Democratic Party (ONDP) last April, a year after the launch of the $15 and Fairness campaign, came out in support of a $15 minimum wage. The NDP also came out in support of the card-check union certification for all industries and other progressive OLRA reforms. The party has even supported the idea of paid sick days. This is a welcome advance for the party, which in the last provincial election supported a $12 minimum wage when the campaign was pushing for $14.

But the ONDP has been relatively passive on the issues. They finally came out for paid sick days this spring, but wouldn't outline how many or their plan for implementation. Instead of putting forth private members bills with a strong $15 and Fairness frame and making the Liberals consistently vote down these measures they preferred to put forward private members bills that only had a realistic chance of passing. By not setting the agenda the ONDP's strategy of leading from the rear gave the Liberals all sorts of wiggle room on the issues.

While some riding associations were active and productive participants in the campaign, the leadership lacks vision when it comes to conducting a broader fight. Since the announcement by Premier Kathleen Wynne, the ONDP has let the Liberals be the sole political voice defending the $15 minimum wage against rightwing attacks. Instead of supporting the Liberals finally doing the correct thing and attacking the rightwing detractors, they have remained silent and let Wynne be identified as the idea's political champion. It is easy to be outflanked when you are not moving.

Shifting the Political Terrain

The campaign has shifted the political terrain in the province by making seemingly far-fetched ideas extremely popular. It is easy to now say that a $15 minimum wage, equal work for equal pay and other labour law reforms are only modest gains, as some on the left are now doing. However, this diminishes the work done by countless people who struggled on the campaign and downplays the political lesson that workers engaging in economic and political struggle can achieve victories.

When the campaign started it was building off the incredible work of the Fight for $15 in the United States and the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Ontario. Workers who launched the Fight for $15 and Fairness picked $15 and other goals because they seemed bold enough to inspire people to action, achievable enough to produce victories and universal enough to connect with movements across the globe. When the campaign started a common refrain many people heard while out petitioning was these sound like good ideas, but we will never achieve them. This reaction was the product of years of defeats weathered by the working class. After constantly organizing and fighting for two years the campaign has put these demands on the political map and made them popular. The latest Forum Research poll shows 70% of Torontonians favouring a $15 minimum wage. Across the country, with the existence of campaigns in almost every province, the latest poll showed 63% of Canadians in support of a $15 minimum wage.

The Liberals, facing terrible polling numbers due to rising hydro prices, corruption, years of austerity and the exhaustion of being the governing party since 2003, are undoubtedly looking to make political moves in the run-up to the election. They are looking to tact left and eat into the NDP's base, which is obviously crass electioneering. But this move to the left on labour issues is only possible because of the work the campaign did in making those ideas popular.

The Liberal announcement for a $15 minimum wage and labour law reform has set off a tectonic shift in Ontario's political landscape. In a year from now Ontario will have its next election and instead of it being an election solely about Liberal corruption, Hydro prices and sex-ed, it looks like it will be an election about work, workers’ rights and inequality. This in and of itself is a major victory for the campaign and for workers. Making the ballot question a referendum on the needs and rights of workers is a political playing field labour and the left should welcome. Having two of the three major political parties lining up behind a $15 minimum wage and voicing at least modest support for progressive labour reforms is a victory and provides a solid political ground for labour to sink a resurgent provincial Tory party.

Fighting the Right and Raising Expectations

Over the next year the rightwing will exert massive pressure to delay, deny and reverse any and all progressive reforms. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Ontario Proud and other rightwing groups will flood the media with fear. They will claim rising inflation, job loss, automation and a growing debt will be the result of a $15 minimum wage and modest labour reforms. If the Fight for $15 and Fairness and labour go dormant in the lead up to the election there is a good chance the Liberals will reverse course and the rightwing will triumph in the election against both the NDP and Liberals.

What is important to understand is that in making the next election about the workers’ needs and rights, the left and labour have a responsibility to escalate the fight. Workers’ expectations are being raised and this is a positive thing. The lessons of this fight must be generalized. Labour can make major advances when it aims to fight to improve standards for both union and non-union workers. Raising the floor of working standards makes it easier for unions to set the bar higher. The lessons of this struggle and the newly activated networks of workers created by the campaign are assets the union movement can draw on as it aims to achieve breakthroughs in bargaining.

Workers in Ontario are now realizing that they can fight and win significant changes in the workplace. The union movement should double down on this victory by putting its resources into organizing, effective contract campaigns and properly funding campaigns that speak to the broader working class. Passively sitting back and waiting for the election would be a fatal mistake. The confidence of the working class stemming from this victory will either propel the fight further or it will dissipate, the choice is up to labour and the left. If it is the latter there is little doubt we will be facing down Tory leader Patrick Brown, if it is the former, the sky is the limit. •

David Bush is a Ph.D. student at York University. He is active with the Fight for $15 and Fairness club at York University. This article first published on the website.

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