The Importance of a Living Wage
The issue of the living wage has become the center of many debates and conversations across the United States as of late. Separate from minimum wage, living wage refers to the minimum amount of income a person requires to meet basic needs based on their circumstances, such as family, dependents, other household contributors, and geographic location. A living wage should be enough for a person working forty hours a week to pay for housing and related bills, food, and clothing. Living wage is generally not calculated based on a middle class standard of living, but merely a safe, decent standard of living in that particular community. Therefore, a living wage will vary from community to community, with citizens of larger cities often requiring a higher living wage than in rural areas.
According the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has a living wage calculator and has published the average living wages for all fifty states and counties within the states. MIT reports living wage requirements for various types of households with a sole provider in Portland, Oregon as follows:
-Household with 1 adult: $9.42
-Household with 1 adult and 1 child: $19.57
-Household with 1 adult and 2 children: $24.27
-Household with 1 adult and 3 children: $31.60
-Household with 2 adults: $15.18
-Household with 2 adults and 1 child: $18.31
-Household with 2 adults and 2 children: $19.76
-Household with 2 adults and 3 children: $24.25
This calculation is based on the need for basic housing, food, child care, medical costs, housing, transportation, and a category for minimal “other” expenses. This does not include savings, recreation, or other emergency expenses. The minimum wage for the state of Oregon is currently $8.95 per hour, which you can see is below any living wage for a Portland resident, even a single person living alone. This means that Portland residents working for minimum wage rates will likely need additional financial assistance from the government or other sources to survive.
Showdown in D.C.
Washington, D.C. and Wal-Mart are currently in a showdown regarding living wage legislation that has been approved by D.C. lawmakers. The law, which still needs the mayor’s signature, would require any corporate retailer with sales of at least $1 billion and that operate in spaces larger than 75,000 square feet to pay employees at least $12.50 per hour, an estimated living wage in D.C. This is higher than the current D.C. minimum wage of $8.25 per hour. Wal-Mart has been developing three stores in D.C. and had plans to build three more in the near future, however has threatened to cease all development plans if the living wage law passes. If Wal-Mart pulls out, several city renewal and development projects may fail. Lawmakers passed the bill, stating that the value of D.C. citizens is more important than Wal-Mart’s presence, however it is still left to be seen whether the mayor will sign or veto the bill.
If you have a wage dispute or other problem with your employer, do not hesitate to contact HKM employment attorneys today.