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Seniors volunteer to replace low-wage workers for free: 'This is horrendous'

Many criticized the local seniors for driving down the wages by working for restaurants that are refusing to pay a liveable wage.

Seniors volunteer to replace low-wage workers for free: 'This is horrendous'
Image source: Screenshot/Global BC

When a group of local seniors worked for free at their local restaurants to stop it from going under, it seemed like a wholesome story but the response has been a severe tongue lashing from the public. The incident happened in British Columbia, Canada, where workers have quit local restaurants citing starvation wages. The news of local seniors working for free to make up for worker shortage and help keep restaurants running was reported by Global News. Many condemned the act of 'volunteering' because they were effectively enabling the businesses to refuse to pay a liveable wage. In the wake of the pandemic, many workers decided it wasn't worth the miserly pay to risk their lives and quit en masse. Many businesses were forced to increase their wages to attract workers after struggling to meet customer demand. 


The service industry is known for paying starvation wages and subsidizing costs by having employees relying on government programs and tips. Most workers don't have any benefits as well. Many argued that businesses that fail to pay employees should go under. They shouldn't be propped up by the government or the people. Some slammed the seniors for working for free, as they helped the businesses drive down the competitive wage, and enabled them to continue to exploit the workers. 



The owner of PKLS Burger Bar in Sechelt, Tanya Lapansky, admits that the burger joint would be “completely screwed” without the elderly people who are volunteering at the place for no money, reported God.DailyDot. The news report states that the staff at the joint can 'barely keep up' with the orders. Instead of hiring workers and paying better wages, they have sought the help of a group of seniors who are calling themselves “Coasters Helping Coasters.” One of the seniors says they are all retired and are in no need of money. It was ironic that those who didn't need money to get by were actively helping restaurants drive down wages for those who desperately needed it to get by, said a few people. The elderly people said they were doing their bit to help their favorite restaurants stay open.



It's illegal to work for free, so they found a way around the labor laws. While the seniors are working for free, they are technically being paid wages which are then donated to charity. It's a fair assumption to say that the wages are low enough to deter people from taking those jobs.



Global News reported that the government had approved the model on a temporary basis. “The question of not paying for laying has come up, but according to the provincial government, as long as laid-off employees are given the opportunity to return to work first, and the restaurant is actively in the process of hiring, there isn’t a problem using this model to staff on a temporary basis,” claims the report. Many slammed the seniors, and said that the generation of "boomers" had enjoyed good wages and made a comfortable living were now returning to work to harm the new generation from being able to earn a liveable wage.


The federal minimum wage in America hasn't risen for more than 10 years. The national minimum wage rose in step with productivity growth from 1938, when it was first introduced, until 1968. Since then, the minimum wage hasn't accounted for inflation which meant that employees earning minimum wage had a fraction of the purchasing power of those from earlier generations. According to The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), if the minimum wage did rise in step with productivity growth since 1968 it would be over $24 an hour today.


When businesses reopened earlier this year, they struggled to find workers to return to work. As we reported, they were forced to increase wages and offer employment benefits to entice workers back to work, and just highlighted that they always had the ability to do so but chose not to. McDonald’s, Sheetz, Chipotle, Amazon, Walmart, and Costco were some of the businesses that raised the wages to $15 an hour or even higher recently. 


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