Family Matters

Why a living wage matters

(The following was written by Bruce Brown and appeared in the April 2018 issue of CBI’s monthly newsletter, HaShofar)

Beth Israel has recently been re-certified as a living wage employer by Just Economics. A living wage is the minimum amount that a worker must earn to afford his or her basic necessities, without public or private assistance.

Millions of working people struggle to cover the cost of housing, food, health care, childcare and other basic necessities for themselves and their families. A worker who is paid the minimum wage of $7.25/hour (the current rate in North Carolina), or any wage below a living wage, cannot possibly afford basic necessities without assistance. This creates problems not only for workers, but for businesses and the local economy.

The living wage for a single individual living in Western North Carolina during 2016 is $13.00/hour without employer-provided health insurance, or $11.50/hour with health insurance provided by the employer. This amounts to $27,040/year without benefits, or $23,920/year with benefits, assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks a year.

As Jews we are taught that there is a general assumption that a worker’s wages will be sufficient to pay for his/her family’s basic needs. One Mishneh Torah text (Shekalim 4:7) even specifies that communal workers be paid enough to support their families, lest concern about their economic situation impede their ability to work effectively.

The Talmud teaches: One who causes others [to give] is greater than one who simply gives (Bava Batra 9a). While each of us, as individuals, can do much to combat poverty, we can be even more effective when we mobilize others to join us in these efforts. None of us may be able, singlehandedly, to eradicate poverty, but together each of us can do our part to transform the systems that create inequity.

In that regard, the Living Wage Movement is an important initiative that can bring improved conditions for working people, businesses and our local economy.

If you are a business owner, consider taking the initiative to be certified as a living wage employer.. As consumers, your purchasing dollars are the best way to make your voice heard. Consider prioritizing your spending with these Living Wage Certified Employers.

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