A case of the poor working, or just poor working standards?
In its recent story on Igor Kenk, the New York Times became one of the very few to present the former bike peddler as anything other than a villain. The Times raised the idea that Kenk, who is accused of stealing bikes, was putting homeless and other societal castaways to work in his bike shop. Another view, held by the police, the neighbourhood and virtually everyone else is that he was using the same castaways to steal bikes.
The greater Kenk situation aside, I see a complicated principle at play: On one hand, can work for homeless people (or anyone down on his or her luck) be a negative? Yes, workers' standards are standards for a reason, but what exactly do those standards mean when your pockets are empty? And what of personal choice? Can't you choose to forgo minimum wage for the greater good of having a few dollars to eat?
On the other hand, this is a classic case of circumventing labour laws, preying on the downtrodden and outright exploitation. To be homeless or live on the street for any other reason, let's not forget, is to be vulnerable.
With that in mind, I wonder where CFRB's new ad campaign, pictured above, fits into the equation. It's not illegal, as is charged in the Kenk workers, but there are certainly ethical questions to be asked. Namely: What are they paying for their ad placement?
For more on this, read here.