Just Economics revises living wage for 2017

Press release from Just Economics:

Just Economics (JE), a local nonprofit organization most known for promoting living wages, announces an increase in the local Living Wage rate for 2017. The new rate will be $13.00/hr for those employees not offered employer provided health insurance and $11,50/hr for those that are offered employer provided health insurance. The last rate change was in 2015.

By definition, the Living Wage rate is not static. Locally housing cost continue to rise dramatically, which translates to an increase in the cost of living, dictating the rate change. Employers use JE’s rate as the benchmark to set their own minimum wage. JE certified employers are committed to providing a wage that their employees can live on without relying on taxpayer, supported programs, or outside help. The true mark of a successful business is not just creating profits alone; that success means employers do not rely on outside agencies to provide food and shelter for their employees,

Just Economics defines the concept of a living wage as the amount a worker needs to make in order to meet their basic needs without public or private assistance. The living wage rate sets a standard for a different wage floor. To determine the living wage rate, JE uses the Universal Living Wage formula (learn more, see “About Living Wages” at justeconomicswnc.org).

The living wage rate is used in both JE’s public policy advocacy and voluntary Living Wage Employer Certification program. The City of Asheville, the towns of Canton, Montreat, and Weaverville, and Buncombe County all accepted the previous wage rate as a wage floor for policy about public employees. Public agencies using Just Economics wage rate are expected to make adjustments at the beginning of their fiscal year.

With around 400 employers signed on to the program, Just Economics has the largest network of its kind in the country. In 2014, with two national partners, JE helped author a toolkit for other communities to use in establishing a similar program. As a national leader, the organization consults with several communities. The Certification program aims to reward and recognize existing Living Wage Certified Employers, to provide employers with tools and incentives to increase workers’ wages up to a living wage, to connect consumers to employers that provide a living wage, and to promote a just and sustainable local economy. The program is an innovative approach to addressing root causes of poverty.

Living Wage Certification is valid for two years before an employer is required to recertify. Business owners due for re-certification in 2017 can opt to sign up for a two year certification at the new rate, or utilize the grace period to re-certify at the previous living wage rate for one year, and then make the necessary adjustments by January 1, 2018. Existing Living Wage Certified Employers have been notified of the wage rate change and will have ample time to make adjustments in their wage scale. All businesses certifying for the first time this year will be at the new 2017 rate.

“While we know what it takes to get by is different for every individual based on their circumstances, we set a standard in this community with our living wage rate that we see as a more just minimum than the minimum wage, a better starting place. We use a formula based on federal numbers in relation to the cost of housing because we know that in this area, the relatively high cost of housing in comparison to the abundance of low-wage jobs is not contributing to a sustainable local economy. We believe a full time worker should, at the very least, be able to put a roof over their head and food on their table without financial assistance.” – Vicki Meath, Executive Director Just Economics.

“The cost of housing, healthcare and food continues an upward spiral. When workers cannot make enough to make ends meet their families and communities suffer. They have no choice but to rely government and private agencies to meet their basis needs. However, when they earn a living wage those same families are self-reliant, and tend to spend more of their earnings locally, providing stimulation to the local economy. For employers, paying a living wage can mean lower employee turnover, a more motivated workforce, AND the increased goodwill of the community – a living wage is a win for the entire community.” – Carmen Ramos-Kennedy, Living Wage Program Coordinator Just Economics.

About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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