Thursday, October 20, 2011
Idea #4: Support A Living Wage
One thing that is kind of terrible for me is that this beautiful province of mine, The Best Place On Earth no less, is also home to our nation's highest child poverty rates. If you took your average preschool dance class, one of those seven kids would be living in poverty. Not, "I guess you'll have to pay your own way through college" poverty, but "no, it's your brother's turn to wear the jacket poverty". I know most of us like to think that it's because their parents are sitting around in their designer clothes playing XBox (as an aside, if I had a dollar for every time I've heard this indictment of poor families who are clearly only poor because they buy stuff, I'd have enough money to end the poverty), but in fact, more than half of them have parents doing paid work, and a third of them have at least one parent with full-time work. And they still have to choose between heat and hotdogs.
In my neck of the woods, a living wage has been calculated at $18.81 for each parent working full-time. Minimum wage here is $8.75. Full-time that's about $17,500 a year, or $1460 a month.
In my neighbourhood, say a family of four decides to squish up into a two-bedroom apartment. Average rent for that two-bedroom (in 2009) is $1116. To meet the affordability threshold of 30%, both parents would have to have combined earnings of $3720. Fully employed at minimum wage, they'd be $800 shy of that threshold. Sure they'd have more than $1800 to "spare". But you know, by the time they pay for luxuries like cars and insurance and groceries and gas and school fees and maybe shoes... well, you know what I'm getting at.
Here's the thing. The facts can all be refuted and argued and yes but'ed, but the fact remains that part of what makes me feel rich is that so much stuff that I want or want to do is cheap. And the main reason it's cheap is because someone has not been paid very much to get it to me, or do it for me. Keeping other people poor makes me feel rich.
This is gross.
So here's my next plan. I'm going to start looking for Living Wage Employers like VanCity. I'm going to ask the places where I do business if they pay a living wage. I'm going to ask candidates in our local election if they support a living wage policy for our municipality like the one recently enacted in New Westminster. And the people I pay directly, I'm going to pay in such a way that I know their household is earning a living wage.
As I discussed this with a friend who is also a business owner, she pointed out that there is a point where upward pressure on wages means upward pressure on prices. So I do all this knowing that as more and more employers adopt a living wage policy, and as our family slowly moves our business to living wage employers, we're going to be paying more for the things we want and the things we need and the services we enjoy. And we'll probably feel poorer for it.
Unless making fewer people poorer actually makes me feel a tiny bit richer.
IDEA #4 Response:
Do you know employers who are choosing a living wage policy for their employees? If you're paying anybody to do anything, will you be able to start a move to a living wage policy for your own family?