The Living Wage: Revolution #9

Kshama Sawant is a Socialist fighting for a Living Wage in Seattle. Judging from the reactions of the people, many are still living in the 1960s and 1970s. In public policy, a living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their needs that are considered to be basic. This is not necessarily the same as subsistence, which refers to a biological minimum, though the two terms are commonly confused. These needs include shelter (housing) and other incidentals such as clothing and nutrition. Living wage is defined by the wage that can meet the basic needs to maintain a safe, decent standard of living within the community. The particular amount that must be earned per hour to meet these needs varies depending on location. In 1990 the first living wage campaigns were launched by community initiatives in the US addressing increasing poverty faced by workers and their families. They argued that employee, employer, and the community win with a living wage. Employees would be more willing to work, helping the employer reduce worker turnover ratio and it would help the community when the citizens have enough to have a decent life.

Adam Smith acknowledged: 

Servants, labourers and workmen of different kinds, make up the far greater part of every great political society. But what improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconvenience to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged.

In New York The proposed law will inform taxpayer of where their investment dollars go and will hold developers to more stringent employment standards. The proposed act will require developers who receive substantial tax-payer funded subsidies to pay employees a minimum living wage. The law is designed to raise quality of life and stimulate local economy. Specifically the proposed act will guarantee that workers in large developmental projects will receive a wage of at least $10.00 an hour. The living wage will get indexed so that it keeps up with cost of living increases. Furthermore the act will require that employees who do not receive health insurance from their employer will receive an additional $1.50 an hour to subsidize their healthcare expenses. Workers employed at a subsidized development will also be entitled to the living wage guarantee.

The Economic Policy Institute states The proposed law will inform taxpayer of where their investment dollars go and will hold developers to more stringent employment standards. The proposed act will require developers who receive substantial tax-payer funded subsidies to pay employees a minimum living wage. The law is designed to raise quality of life and stimulate local economy. Specifically the proposed act will guarantee that workers in large developmental projects will receive a wage of at least $10.00 an hour. The living wage will get indexed so that it keeps up with cost of living increases. Furthermore the act will require that employees who do not receive health insurance from their employer will receive an additional $1.50 an hour to subsidize their health care expenses. Workers employed at a subsidized development will also be entitled to the living wage guarantee.

The growth in the U.S. economy would result in about 85,000 new jobs, according to EPI. That counters arguments from conservative economists that raising the minimum wage could actually hurt the working poor by making employers hesitant to hire more workers.

Since 1974 wages have remained the same and the top 1% makes 475 times more. Wealthy wages have escalated, average worker wages have actually dropped. With the reduction of hours to 32 to 25 an hour a living wage would still bring home the bacon. There was a notion in the 60s and 70s that there would be less hours, more leisure time so people could discover their talents.

The industrial age is over, Unions are only 5% compared to 33% back in the old days. Say good by to the manufacturing jobs,

 

Today’s minimum wage isn’t enough for a family of two to live above the poverty line, according to the EPI study. In fact, it takes an hourly wage of $10.20 per hour for a single person to afford basic needs in America’s cheapest county, according to a July analysis from Wider Opportunities for Women. That wasn’t always the case. The increase that is proposed would get us back to almost exactly what we would had as a real value of the minimum wage in the 1960’s.

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