According to wikipedia, a living wage is ¨the minimum hourly income necessary for a worker to meet basic needs¨ such as ¨housing, food, utilities, transport, health care, and recreation.¨ We aren’t calling for a dollar amount; living wages should be tied to cost of living and account for inflation. (Click here for one example of a Living Wage Calculator.) In other words, we envision a world where everyone has whatever it costs to provide for everything a given person or community needs.
By universal, we mean that everyone, everywhere deserves the right to live without poverty and the entire 99% across the world must stand in solidarity to fight for our commons. The struggle must include us all, regardless of occupation or immigration status, and must be waged at every level: from individual employers to cities, states, nations, and beyond. We live in a globalized world ruled by transnational corporations. We must have a transnational demand: A living wage for every person on the planet.
To the critics who would say, ¨A living wage would drive up inflation, scare away investors, kill small business, stifle job creation¨ and so on: We are not convinced. There were those who said the exact same things when a handful of radicals in the 1880s began calling and marching for the 8-hour work day.
Why accept a world in which poverty is necessary for the economy to function? We may not entirely understand the intricacies of financial markets — but admit it, neither do you. No one does. But we can say with certainty that that system is not a functioning economy. We must measure success in the number of lives saved, the number of homes provided, the number of bellies fed — not the number of dollars made on Wall Street. We can do better, but we must demand it.
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¨There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American citizen whether he be a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid, or day laborer. There is nothing except shortsightedness to prevent us from guaranteeing an annual minimum and livable income for every American family. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
¨No society can surely be ﬂourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged.¨ Adam Smith
“The Occupy movement put inequality on the radar. If we’re serious as a society about poverty and work and decency, the minimum wage needs to eventually become a living wage.” Dan Cantor, New York State Working Families Party
“Hence in every case a just wage is the concrete means of verifying the whole socioeconomic system and, in any case, of checking that it is functioning justly.” Pope John Paul II
¨Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that people who work full-time should not live in poverty. […] As president, Obama will further raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011, index it to inflation and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to make sure that full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing — things so many people take for granted.¨ — Barack Obama, 2008