Coming off our largest #LivingWageWeek to date, I asked Trish Hennessy, now the Executive Director of the Upstream Institute, to reflect on the early days of the living wage movement in Ontario. Trish and myself, along with several other decent work advocates would be inspired to start the Ontario Living Wage Network after a meeting 7 years ago.

—Greg deGroot-Maggetti, OLWN Chair

In 2012, when the living wage was a movement happening elsewhere but not in Ontario, we gathered people in a room at Ryerson University who planted seeds. We brought in people who were leading the way on the living wage in B.C. to talk about their experiences and their successes.

Afterward, a group of us kept talking. We wanted those seeds to take root. Greg deGroot-Maggetti, Tom Cooper, Linda Terry and I would come to form the Ontario Living Wage Network with the goal of turning the living wage into an actual movement in Ontario.

And those roots are now bearing fruit: we can officially call the living wage a movement on the rise. November’s living wage week was the most successful in the network’s history:

27 community living wage calculations.
264 certified living wage employers.
13k+ living wage employer directory page visits on living wage week.
Mainstream media coverage in every region.

And now the network is incorporating as a non-profit, with the goal of becoming a self-sustaining organization that works in service of this movement.

It’s been several years since I’ve actively worked in the network but I want to thank each and every one of you who continue to plant new seeds: the growing number of living wage employers, communities working on local calculations and bringing together leaders to support this initiative, and the team at the Ontario Living Wage Network headquarters.

With the minimum wage currently frozen at $14 an hour, the importance of the work that this network is doing cannot be understated. Your contributions are impacting a growing number of workers’ lives in the best possible way. Thank you and keep on growing!

Trish Hennessy

Executive Director, Upstream Institute


Nearly every region earned media coverage of some sort as we announced 5 brand new calculations and 14 updated rates. Here's a select few:

This CTV London news segment actually screen capped our website on the first day of living wage week. A great start in London, whose last calculation was made in 2015.

A brand new calculation for the Grey Bruce regions gets coverage in the Owen Sound Sun Times.

Sudbury CBC covers a panel discussion on the living wage, and the updated calculation as well:

The living wage figures into a story about food banks in the Kawartha Lakes region in this Global News story.

We look forward to signing up certified living wage employers as Global News reports on the new living wage rate in Peterborough.

Newstalk 610 CKTB in Niagara continues their coverage of the living wage in the region with an interview with Glen Walker of the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network, as they celebrate their certified employers.

On the morning of November 6th, Craig Pickthorne, our Communications and Development Coordinator, granted interviews on CBC Radio One in London, Toronto, Thunder Bay, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Windsor.


Each month we'll showcase a different living wage employer. This month it’s the creative firm Barrett and Welsh in Toronto's east end.

"We are a small, independent branding and advertising agency on a mission to move our fellow humans with unforgettable, long-lived ideas that stimulate behaviour change, inclusion and progress. It's why we see ourselves as being in the moving business rather than the advertising business. We move people. We move them with powerful ideas. To act and react. To respond and remember. To respect and represent. To change themselves or others, or to hold firm for the principles that serve their shared humanity best. We specialize in work that creates inclusion for unserved and underserved visible minority groups and in work that promotes sustainable urban development."


Throughout its history, the OLWN has relied on grants and donations from funding partners to cover its operating expenses. Starting in 2020, we will begin collecting licence fees as part of the living wage certification process. There will be a fee structure tied to the number of employees, and will include reduced rates for non-profits, starting at $50 per year.

Many businesses see value in belonging to a publicly listed group of accredited peers. Local Chambers of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, trade associations, the Forestry Stewardship Council, the Organics Council of Ontario, and B-Corp certification all offer a way to communicate organizational values, while lending credibility to their brand. All these memberships come with fees to cover the certifying organizations’ costs.

Most importantly, the benefits that go along with certification will get more robust in 2020 and beyond, including a fully-searchable and mobile-friendly living wage employer map and listing page.

Other benefits include:

1. Living wage employers are publicly promoted through our various communications channels. They also have the rights to display our branding (decals, website badges etc.) that we issue to them as requested. The term “living wage” is instantly recognized and understood by most people, even if they are not familiar with the OLWN. This is the result, in part, of ongoing communications and outreach work by our local organizers and the OLWN with traditional and new media.

2. Certified employers are able to position themselves in a frame that is defined by the values of social responsibility, community and fairness. This is a potent way they can differentiate themselves from competitors. We will protect the integrity of that branding so that the consumer and business public may be confident that a certified living wage employer is truly paying a current living wage.

3. Fee-paying living wage employers make it possible for anyone in Ontario to understand what it takes for workers to make ends meet. The rates and methodologies are released publicly for transparency, and employers can be proud of being a part of making that happen each year.