With all of the debate recently over raising the minimum wage, more needs to be said about requiring employers to pay a "living wage." In most cases $900 a month is not enough to support an individual ( in the US ) .
The Economic Policy Institute defines living wage as the "wage a full-time worker would need to earn to support a family above federal poverty line, ranging from 100% to 130% of the poverty measurement.
The wage rates specified by living wage ordinances range from a low of $6.25 in Milwaukee to a high of $12 in Santa Cruz."
Critics of a living wage requirement raise concerns about the negative impact increased labor costs would have on businesses and the economy.
Opponents argue that if labor costs too much, employers will stop hiring or become unprofitable.A recent study conducted in Los Angeles found that the job loss was minimal for workers, contradicting claims by critics who suggest that "that living-wage laws lead to increased unemployment and business flight." Living wage ordinance passed in 1997 and impacting 10,000 workers showed that job loss was minimal, and the benefits solid for the workers covered.
"Other studies conclude that there is no decline in the number of firms bidding for city contracts nor is the ability of a city to retain or attract employers paying decent wages limited by the implementation of a living-wage law."
Other shows that raising the minimum wage presents a number of problems.First, there is a correlation between job loss among the most vulnerable employees, and wealthy teens displacing unskilled employees.
Second, while the lower class encounters more job losses, the benefited ones are the higher income families.
Additionally, it will hurt leisure and hospitality industries.
The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) found "16 percent increase in the unemployment rate and an alarming loss of 540 jobs following the mandate" as unintended consequences to the living wage regulation.
Current Efforts to Pass Living Wage Laws
Several cities around the US have recently tried to, or are currently trying to pass a living wage law.
- Chicago recently tried to pass a living wage law directed at Big Box retail stores, but the bill was vetoed by Mayor Daly and the votes for an overturn disappeared after Wal-Mart pressured a few Council members.
- Memphis is currently considering a living wage law for city contractors. For more information on how you can get involved, check with the Mid-South Interfaith Network for Social Justice.
- North Carolinas Governor Mike Easley proposed to the NAACP delegates raising the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour, which is perceived as "first step" toward a living wage.
Several organizations have provided information and resources for people interested in getting involved in living wage campaigns.
- Living Wage Action Coalition. LWAC provides information and resources for students seeking to implement living wage requirements on campuses for school employees.
- America Needs a Raise (AFL-CIO). Resources and opportunities to take action at the federal and state level to raise the minimum wage.
- NPAction. Advice on how to start a living wage campaign.
- The Virginia Organizing Project (VOP): Living wage at the University of Virginia. This campaign among others in the country supports a better pay for low-income workers.
- Democratic Party: Pass the Minimum Wage Act. Sign the petition to take action
- One America. Take action to raise minimum wage and find information about ongoing campaigns throughout the country.
- Social Action. The Commandment for a Living Wage article discusses how the Jewish community is taking action to pass the living wage ordinance.
Care2 member Larry S. provided me with these other resources:
- Local Currencies: http://www.smallisbeautiful.org/local_currencies.html
- Ithaca HOURS: http://www.ithacahours.org/
- The Potential of Local Currency: http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/july95lowry.htm
- Vermont Living Wage Campaign: http://www.vtlivablewage.org/