Living Wage

"LIVING WAGE" -- A level of compensation that allows an individual to support him/herself and his/her family at a decent standard of living, given the local area's cost-of-living (COL).

As of May 1, 2000, 48 municipalities have enacted a living wage city ordinance. Among these are Denver, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles.

First among the 48 to enact a living wage ordinance was Des Moines, Iowa in 1988. Second to follow, in 1991, was Gary, Indiana. Next came Baltimore, Maryland in 1994. In 1995, two more cities followed suit. By 1996, the idea began to catch on and five cities enacted ordinances. In 1997, eight cities joined the band wagon. In 1998, ten more cities were added to the list. By 1999, sixteen cities did "the right thing." And in the first four months of 2000, five more municipalities signed on the dotted line.

More than 80 cities now have living wage ordinances pending.

The highest paying municipality is Kankakee, Illinois, offering a minimum wage of $11.42 per hour. San Jose, California pays a minimum wage of $10.75 per hour.

Living wage ordinances require that all companies engaged in business transactions with the municipality pay their employees no less than the minimum wage paid by the municipality.

It is clear that this grass-roots movement is building momentum. The question is, how long will it be before we see the first state or federal law to mandate living wage standards?

In the meantime, companies in the private sector (who don't do business with the municipalities in question) are free to act as their values and ability to pay dictates.