Thursday, October 20, 2011

Idea #4: Support A Living Wage

There are a few people in this world who don't deserve to earn a living wage.  They are the ones saving up for Sea Monkeys and/or find themselves on The Real Housewives of Anywhere. The rest of us should reasonably expect that the work we do sufficiently provide for what our lives require, be it home for a family or funds for school or maybe even a hint of future security in the form of savings.

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.

Occupy Me.

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?


  1. This is a great and important message. Thank you so much! Jeff I

  2. Here's my thing . . .minimum wage should have age categories. Under 18 $8.75/ hr is fair. Really, that age group is generally not paying for it's own food, rent and utilities. Over 18 more are, or are paying for school.
    This small change would allow employers to pay entry level staff entry level wages.
    You get what you pay for as ar as staffing goes, so long as you hire carefully. When we had a store, I insisted my Dad pay his retail staff $15.00/hr. Talking to one of his former employees recently, I asked where she was working now that the store was closed. She moved into a retail chain store in the exact industry and was getting only $11/hr. Less than she earned 20 years ago working the same department at Eaton's.
    Of course, both the living wage payers are now out of business and the lower wage payer is going strong . . . Ugh. Hate that.
    I'm rambling.
    Age category on minimum wage. Good thing.

  3. @Jeff, thanks for the note.
    @Anonymous, I like how you think. I wonder about a graduated wage. Low for up to 16yo, medium for 16 - 18s who are possibly having to save for school, and then high for 18+. Also, I hope that if there is enough pressure from some of us spenders, retailers and vendors in general will start making their own Fair Wage policy part of their marketing so that we can move our dollars their way... imagine if we had harnessed the powers of the interwebs to send business to your dad?