Living Wage No. 353
The living wage movement had its beginnings in Baltimore, MD in 1994 and ever since has gained momentum across the country, led by ACORN. There are now more than 120 living wage ordinances nationwide. These ordinances cover certain classifications of workers in a local area and are often tailored to the economic and political circumstances of that locality; but they are all based on the principle that employers receiving contracts or subsidies to provide services to a community or receiving tax benefits for setting up their business in a community should pay the workers of that community a "living" wage. Different localities define living wage differently, but it is usually set well above the federal minimum wage and often includes health benefits.
Some of the more recently passed ordinances include that of Syracuse, New York, which covers employees who have a specified time of employment experience, of contractors with the city and their sub-contractors, working on a specified-size city contract. The ordinance mandates a wage of $10.08/hour plus health benefits or $11.91/hour without health benefits. Currently an advisory board monitors the success of Syracuse's living wage ordinance. Brookline, Massachusetts' recently adopted a living wage ordinance, which covers employees of contractors working on specified-sized contracts for the town, provides $10.72/hour which will increase to $11.15/hour in 2006.
Labor and community coalitions (principally ACORN) have successfully worked together to pass living wage laws. The living wage movement continues to build steam, breathing life into local politics and spreading hope among low-income workers. Currently many city, county, and even statewide campaigns are active, as are campaigns at universities and colleges. Although living wage laws cover only a subset of a locality's workforce, they set a standard that is often as much as $3 - $4 higher than the federal or state minimum wage. The federal minimum wage, currently $5.85/hour, is the nationwide standard badly in need of improvement.
To begin a national dialogue on living wages and wage inequality, ADA urges support for HR 1050, "A Living Wage, Jobs for All Act," introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). The Living Wage, Jobs for All Act reaffirms the right to a decent job, income security for those who cannot work, decent housing, adequate health care, and worker/labor rights; requires corporations to release impact statements on the effects of their activities on workers, consumers, and the environment; and denies federal contracts to corporate law-breakers. The bill is currently under consideration in several House committees.
To narrow the inequitable rich-poor gap and produce a more balanced and stable economy, ADA supports the living wage movement. ADA also supports A Living Wage, Jobs for All Act as national reinforcement for local campaigns. ADA's goal is for all workers in the country to be paid enough to sustain a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.
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