Model T and Big Mac parallels

A once convenient version of history stated that a century ago, Henry Ford paid daily wages of $5, double the usual, so workers could afford the vehicles they made. According to myth, Ford thereby helped develop the middle class.

In truth, Henry Ford was the opposite of an altruist. He was forced to pay higher wages because miserable factory conditions caused intolerable staff turnover. The Michigan Historical Center reports:

In 1913, Ford hired more than 52,000 men to keep a workforce of only 14,000.

Without meaningful attachments to jobs, Ford employees failed to perform and often failed to attend. Like chains with broken links, assembly lines don’t even work poorly with nonfunctioning stations. In addition to ruinous costs of downtime, Ford faced expenses for recruiting and training new staff, many of whom would vanish without contributing to production.

Ford responded by paying more than competing employers and immediately had a workforce that followed assigned schedules and worked with diligence and dedication. Ford sold cars into a marketplace where demand responded to price and he understood that, in turn, the availability of good workers was affected by the price he paid them.

In Canada, many businesses don’t want to pay more, they prefer to import economic slaves from an unlimited third world supply. In return for what Canadians consider modest wages, poor labourers will cope with separation from family, crowded and shoddy living conditions, onerous imposts, unpaid overtime and the risk of being returned to the homeland for even slight intransigence.

An unskilled worker could make $1,000 annually in parts of the Philippines, working long hours, six days a week. The possibility of earning 15 times or more in Canada appeals, even if the worker spends more than half on living, travel and employment expenses. The motivations of employers and foreign workers is understandable; both are trying to improve their own economic situations. Questions to be answered are whether or not the Temporary Foreign Worker Program makes Canada better off and if government policy should prioritize higher business profits ahead of better wages. Analysis shows the program lessens upward pressure on unskilled wages, which are often earned by Canadians living in or near poverty.

Clearly, the HarperCons come down on the side of higher profits. According to a government statement, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program:

allows eligible foreign workers to work in Canada for an authorized period of time if employers can demonstrate that they are unable to find suitable Canadians/permanent residents to fill the jobs and that the entry of these workers will not have a negative impact on the Canadian labour market.

That might seem reasonable but, in fact, the government spends far more advertising its Economic Action Plan than it spends administering and enforcing rules of the TFWP. As a result, employers learned that abusing the system was profitable and without consequence.

Among the worst offenders was Denny’s Restaurants of BC, which was forced to make a 7-figure settlement with cooks and servers brought from the Phillipines under TFWP and subsequently abused:

The BC Supreme Court approved the settlement because Denny’s failed to honour its contracts with the workers. This included offering them less than a full week of work, not paying overtime pay and failing to reimburse them for agency fees and airfare to Canada.

The federal government chose not to enforce rules that allowed more than 100,000 TFW’s in western Canada because, as McDonald’s Canada CEO John Betts said, all criticism of the staffing arrangement is “bullshit” but “the Minister gets it.” Betts, an American, joined McDonald’s in New York 44 years ago and came to Canada in 2008. His words suggest he’s worried about PR but not about government eliminating a program that contributes to profitability.

Maybe it’s because McDonald’s is one of Canada’s largest oil consumers and the Harper government has blind dedication to subsidizing and supporting the oil industry. Oh, wait. Wrong Oil. Never mind.

Gas, already above $1.50 a litre in some Vancouver stations, is expected to continue rising because we don’t have domestic supply to cover demand and probably never will. Higher prices are a classic response to inadequate supply, except for undeserving wage-earners at the lowest rung of the income ladder.

I said above that Henry Ford had no selfless concern for the well-being of others. Michigan Historical Center recounts:

The $5-a-day rate was about half pay and half bonus. The bonus came with character requirements and was enforced by the Socialization Organization. This was a committee that would visit the employees’ homes to ensure that they were doing things the “American way.”

They were supposed to avoid social ills such as gambling and drinking. They were to learn English, and many (primarily the recent immigrants) had to attend classes to become “Americanized.” Women were not eligible for the bonus unless they were single and supporting the family.

Categories: Labour

14 replies »

  1. will not have a negative impact on the Canadian work force…….. the Cons forgot this one. Any time they sign off on a TFW coming into Canada to take a Canadian/Canadian landed immigrant's job, it is having a negative impact. The jobs which are going to TFW at fast food restarants could easily be held by students and young people waiting to get into post secondary education, working to save money for a post secondary education, etc There should be no TFW working in the resturant industry. There are more than enough people willing to do the work. Many employers simply want to exploit workers. Canadians usuallly know their rights and know where to report violations. People who are TFW have no rights. They will simply be deported/sent back. The number of FTW in this country is disgusting.

    Jason Kenny's latest annoucement is simply so much bull shit. When MacDonald's beat him to the punch, with an audit, you know he is way over his head. Now if we can only get some changes to the temporary workers scheme. If we need more workers, have them come to Canada as landed immigrants. This “temporary' business is supposed to be temporary, now by the definition in the dictionary, what we have, is not temporary. It is one thing to bring in workers for a harvest and such, but for years on end. not so much. Lets send Jason Kenny back to where he came from. he ought not to be in the House of Commons. perhaps we ought to bring in a temporary foreign worker for his job. works for me.


  2. Youth unemployment in Canada is at above 14%. What does this government not understand? They say our youth don't want these jobs and maybe that's true but looking to the conditions the employers deploy possibly one can understand their frustration. Bringing in people willing to comply isn't the answer.These conditions can only serve to worsen and degrade as corporation take advantage.Then again that seems to be their goal!


  3. Perhaps the government plans to have TFWs build prisons to house our homegrown unemployed youth who will surely turn to crime to survive.


  4. One reason the old white guys running Mcdonalds had to import foreigners is that they used to refuse jobs to any male wearing bling or anybody with visible ink. They really fear union talk and people working on temporary permits keep the risk of that low and other staff dare not ask for raises.


  5. Never mind, CKNW is “putting BC to work.” If that isn't a shameless shill for the Liberals, I don't know what is. I can just imagine what Bill Good will be saying when he gets back from China.


  6. One of the biggest contributors to the Philippine budget is it's foreign workers. Filipinos who work around the world send much of their wages back home. It's been that way for years. A week or so ago the Times Colonist did a story about a single mother from another region of the world and she to admitted to sending money back home.
    With that in mind, one has to ask, just how much do they provide to the local economy. And what about the other costs, such as health care or English training etc. etc.
    I don't really fault someone for wanting a better life or helping their family, but why should it cost me ? Whenever I read these stories in the news, no one talks about the hidden costs. Nothing is free in this world.

    Guy in Victoria


  7. The foreign worker program is a national disgrace and it showcases the Harper gang's fascist roots by allowing cheap foreign workers to drive down wages of the average Canadian.

    You can't have it both ways, yet many right wing Canadians feel that they can drive up house prices by allowing foreign buyers in the housing market (very few countries actually allow this), yet demand low wages making it near impossible for the average Canadian to afford decent living accommodations.

    Keep this inequity up and Canada may fins itself having its own “Canadian Spring” with the ruling elites facing treason charges.

    As for Bill Boring and the 'Dead Dog 98', it is sad to see what was once a top radio station, excellent news analysis and reporting, combined with top talk show hosts, devolve into a whinging and embarrassing moan-fest. The likes of BS Baldry and Vague Palmer only highlight how bad things are. The mainstream media has been bought and sold like a cheap whore and is no longer considered news, rather merely dispensers of propaganda. Herr Goebbels would have been so pleased.


  8. Fast food franchise menu pricing structures must be part of the problem in this TFW debate. If a renegade Tim Horton's franchisee charged, say, 5% more so he could attract — and retain — Canadian workers, he'd get his hand slapped by the head office.


  9. If a renegade Tim Horton's franchisee charged, say, 5% more so he could attract and retain Canadian workers there would not be enough patriotic Canadians to support him.


  10. To discriminate against someone or a group of people with only a preconceived opinion as evidence defines prejudice. One has to wonder if the National Conservative Troll Coordinator is aware that justifying the use of Temporary Foreign Workers with talking points characterizing a whole group of job applicants as normally lazy, always late, perennially slow and always asking for a raise and time off based only on their country of origin is discriminatory under Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—in this case the country of origin is Canada.


  11. For those that may be interested, the Alberta Federation of Labour( has an article published on April 9,2013 about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that would blow your mind. They submitted a FOI to the Alberta government that yielded a result of a 90 page list of companies that had brought in TFWs after the federal government relaxed the rules on the program. I only scanned the list through a handful of pages but it seems to include a good portion of Canada.

    My take on what has transpired in the last couple of weeks is as follows. The federal Conservative government only put a timeout on the fast food industry for political reasons, nothing more. The talking heads defending the need for these types of workers have circled the wagons and collectively concocted a defense that only the likes of the Fraser Institute would truly espouse. Not only have they disparaged the work ethic of a good number of Canadian citizens with their claims, they have also put those Canadian citizens that are non-Caucasian in an unfair position whereby many may see a TFW whether legitimate or not.


  12. Cranky, you hit a home run: “they have also put those Canadian citizens that are non-Caucasian in an unfair position whereby many may see a TFW whether legitimate or not.”

    I now find myself looking at everyone with broken English, not just the non-Caucasians with suspicion. A very unfair judgement on my part.


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