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Calgary business owner shows support for living wage with decal campaign for store windows

Calgary business starts campaign supporting living wage over minimum wage
WATCH ABOVE: As minimum wage continues to rise in Alberta, one Calgary business owner is starting a movement to support the idea. As Lisa MacGregor reports, it's all about ensuring workers can earn a living wage, which is actually more than what the NDP has planned.

Jill Hawker, a small business owner who runs The Apothocary in Inglewood, is showcasing her support for a living wage through a decal campaign in her storefront window.

“I just thought, ‘You know what, maybe we should bring attention to businesses that are maybe going a little bit above and beyond,’” Hawker said on Monday.

The decal reads “Living wage paid here” and fits in the corner of Hawker’s storefront window. For two dollars, other businesses can pick up a decal at Hawker’s store and put it in their window to show their support for her campaign.

Alberta’s living wage is actually two to three dollars higher than the province’s current minimum wage, which will rise to $15 per hour in October.

“A living wage is the amount of money that a family of four requires to live on, based on the 35-hour work week,” Hawker said. “That’s so they can pay the rent, pay their bills, buy their food and maybe have a little left over at the end of the day.”

READ MORE: Calgary restaurant bracing for carbon tax, minimum wage hikes in 2018

The paycheck store manager Katie Maedel receives at The Apothecary has made her a lifer – she said she loves working there so much. She’s one of Hawker’s 10 employees.

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“These people that I work with are now my family, and I’ve also never been in a place that I felt so passionate about,” Maedel said. “’I’m going to be here and help make this business grow and flourish for the rest of my days.”

Maedel said it has been a nice change compared to the minimum wage jobs she worked before.

“I wouldn’t be able to afford my rent or groceries or if I wanted a bucket of ice cream every now and again,” Maedel said. “’Some people ask us why are prices are a little bit higher when it comes to the odd item in the store or things like that, and it’s because Jill (Hawker) needs to potentially create more revenue for the business to be able to pay us a little bit more.”

“The turnover rate is basically zero here because they stay, but it’s not just about the wage,” Hawker said. “It’s about the fact that they do feel valued in many many ways of the business. And there’s a huge element of cost associated with training new employees.

“You get what you pay for.”​

But some numbers suggest very few businesses are keen to pay more.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) says the minimum wage doesn’t target people that need it the most.

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“When we survey small business owners, two per cent say that raising minimum wage helps with retention,” said Amber Ruddy, director of provincial affairs in Alberta for the CFIB. “What I’d like to see is the profit margin and how business owners can cope because in many cases, small business owners themselves effectively earn minimum wage because of how many hours they’re putting into their business.”

READ MORE: How are the City of Calgary’s fees and fares changing in 2018?

Andy Fennell owns Gravity Coffee Espresso and Wine Bar in Calgary. He hasn’t put a decal up yet but says he fully supports what is best for his staff and that they should benefit from an increase in revenue.

“Everything that I’ve seen to read (on living wage) has been based on two adults and two children in a household. So it’s a little bit obscure to me how that fits around single people and young people coming out of college, but hey, whatever you can do to help your staff make a living wage, I’ve got to be for it.”

The last couple of years have been a tough economy in Calgary but Fennell still hasn’t seen a loss.

“The recession’s been hard but at the same time, the world’s gotten more expensive for people to live in. Many people might say it’s not a good time to boost minimum wage but at the same time, people need to afford to live.”

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Hawker also thinks the decals in storefront windows attract more business from consumers behind higher pay.

“We’ve had a lot of comments from customers and clients who want to know who these businessses are because they want to give them their business.”