Living wage gets legs

A local effort to certify businesses that pay a “living wage” gets off the ground with an upcoming launch party. The grassroots Just Economics campaign is pushing for voluntary compliance by businesses willing to pay employees a living wage. That figure, according to the campaign, is $10.86 an hour without benefits or $9.50 an hour with benefits $11.35 an hour without health insurance or $9.85 an hour with health insurance (updated for 2008).

The launch will take place Thursday, March 13, at Laurey’s Catering (67 Biltmore Ave.) from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Speakers will include Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy and Council member Brownie Newman, as well as representatives from Mountain BizWorks and the Just Economics campaign.

This brochure explains the requirements for becoming certified, including pay rates and benefits for employees. Participating businesses will receive stickers to show that they do pay a living wage and will be included in Just Economics advertising campaigns.

In May, Asheville City Council supported a measure to ensure all city employees are paid a living wage. Though largely symbolic, since the city was already paying wages above that level, the move was celebrated as a message of support by the Asheville Buncombe Living Wage Campaign, now part of Just Economics. Another measure to adjust city wages with a 2.2 percent annual increase failed in a 3-4 vote.

Brian Postelle, staff writer

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11 thoughts on “Living wage gets legs

  1. DonM

    I read the accompanying brochure but, unless I missed it, there’s no mention of whether or not there is a requirement that said employees are legally able to work in this city, state or country. Yes, I’m referring to “undocumented workers.”

    Does anyone else find it curious that a business can be awarded and then sport spiffy decals and be afforded free publicity even if they’re using illegals?

    Does anyone find it germane in the context of doing business?

    Does the City of Asheville use businesses that employ illegals?

  2. Dr. Thomas M. Kelemen-Beatty,DD,BFHM

    I wish to raise an issue that I have brought up before, but have never received a good answer. And that is, what will this do to minority owned businesses? Do not know if this is a problem or not, but my guess is that it could impact these business owners. At the very least, the question should be investigated with a survey of minority owned businesses. Dr. B.

  3. Jerimee

    That’s wonderful news that Asheville is pushing for a living wage. Congratulations and keep up the good work!

  4. travelah

    Doc, what does paying a “living wage” have to do with the skin color of a business owner? Are you advocating that black owned businesses be allowed to pay their employees significantly less than those paying a “living wage”?

  5. Rob Close

    i think he’s implying that minorities are somehow incapable of paying a living wage, not that they’d be able to break rules…either way, a concern that doesn’t really make sense to me (yet).

    does our city hire undocumented workers? not directly, that’d require a lot of false documents (methinks), but i’d bet dollars to donuts we use contractors who do.

  6. DR.ANTINEOCONUS

    Though I agree, that vast numbers of persons who earn low wages [not to be confused with income) could certainly use a few more crumbs thrown from the table, what is this program really going to do.?
    What is certification, and what will it become. Again, seems like more government granted privileges in place of rights.

    Why not try a novel idea, abolish State income tax, like Tennessee and many others States such as Florida, which will spread the wealth and decrease the size of the leviathan NORTH CAROLNA Federal State, at least a little bit.

    This is a socialist nation, lock stock and barrel, incidentally, one of the classical definitions of socialism is any nation, that imposes more than a 30% graduated income tax, that was a very important plank of the communist manifesto, which of course has been completely implemented here in the land of the tax paying sheep, Amerika.

  7. Thorxjones

    I believe the comment about minority owned businesses is in the interest of same. There seems to be a suspicion that minority-owned businesses may be paying less than the legislated livable wage and that forcing this issue will cause a reduction in # employees. This would injure the owner and be absolutely no net gain for the community. But I could be wrong!

  8. dystopia

    A living wage is important in an overall sense and I am especially happy that it might be seriously considered.

  9. living wage means just that!

    What’s the point in certifying businesses who choose to pay their employees a fair wage? In a democracy, the people decide what is acceptable from a business. It is a simple choice to decide to patronize a business that holds your ideals in mind. In this way, a consumer can make an informed choice. This is a voluntary certification, not the government regulating your tax dollars. Many of the current county employees that are making below the living wage would sure appreciate these “crumbs thrown from the table” you speak of, so that they wouldn’t have to use the social programs subsidized by the same budget that issues them a paycheck.

  10. As a business owner, I find this initiative interesting, but have a few concerns.

    After talking to many other video store owners around the country, I am convinced that I have some of the highest paid staff in the business, and I’m proud of that. It’s led to loyalty, low turnover, product knowledge and special bonds between the employees and customers. However, Just Economics is counting on a huge leap of faith from employers. Were are CLOSE to those magic figures, but to reach them would mean for me an extra 3% a month. Will Asheville make it a point to come out and support me an extra 3% more? Or anyone else for that matter?

  11. H. Gardner

    Hey a living wage is a great idea, but what are you basing this on? Certainly not the corresponding expense of housing. In the 30 mile radius around Asheville to afford a common (and not moldy) 3br house or apartment for a small family of four the wage calculation would be in the $30-$50 per hour range. Are there ways to address this? Affordable housing is the buzz word, what about Workforce housing that reflects the wages actually earned? Maybe then you could truly implement a living wage that would mean something. And by the way the cost of living index no longer includes food in the calculation.

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