A local restaurant owner slammed the Wynne government’s promise to boost minimum wage to $15 per hour with yet another controversial message over his front doors Monday afternoon, as minimum wage increase advocates picketed next door.
“I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from business owners, and we’ve had a lot of negative as well,” said Alex Petro, the owner of the Ale House London. After Premier Kathleen Wynne’s wage increase announcement, Petro drew the ire of activists with a sign asking whether patrons were ready for $20 dollar burgers, $10 beers, and long waits for food because the business wouldn’t be able to afford labour. He’s been updating the sign regularly ever since.
“People calling, calling me a capitalist pig, threats on my wife, my kids, my family. But other than that it’s been okay,” he told AM980 calmly, as a small crowd of around a dozen protestors held up signs, distributed pamphlets, and enjoyed a potluck style meal directly to the left of his establishment.
Petro says he works 14 hours days, drives an old car, lives modestly, and doesn’t take vacation. Come 2019, he anticipates he’ll be paying $7000 a month for wages and will have to cut at least 25 per cent of his staff, while potentially making a switch to frozen food instead of continuing to produce 90 per cent of their food in-house to make ends meet.
While Petro is one of many worried how local businesses will handle the change, the argument from the other side rings loud and clear too.
“The guy in there right now who’s making the least, I can guarantee you is doing the jobs no one else wants to do,” said Anthony Verberckmoes, an organizer with London Commonfront, the activist group who spearheaded Monday night’s protest.
“Some of them are still living in mom’s basement, scraping by, and many of them got a degree of some sort, or they can’t get into the work they want,” he explained.
“If the business class is pushing back against this proposed wage increase already, if we don’t keep the pressure up pushing for it, then it’s going to end up being stifled and it’ll be just another dead election promise.”