How it looks today…
Today, too many individuals and families are working too much for too little in Spokane. They are either underpaid or needing to work more than one job to acquire basic necessities. Though Washington State has the highest minimum wage in the country, it falls quite short of what is actually needed to cover the cost of basic needs.
Keep in mind that the today’s minimum wage has less purchasing power than the minimum wage in the 1970’s yet the cost of living, in many key basic need areas, is two to three times higher.
What we know…
For a long time now (since FDR’s Second Bill of Rights) that paying minimum wage isn’t enough. In fact, all the minimum wage says is, “I’d pay you less if I could but I don’t want to get in trouble with the law.” Minimum wage is really a poverty wage.
A living or family wage has been understood to be what it requires for a basic necessities to be met. That means that workers must earn enough to cover their basic costs, like food, rent, healthcare, transportation, child care, etc., without public assistance.
We also know that the following occurs when workers earn an adequate amount:
- Less turnover
- Less absenteeism
- Increased productivity
- Increased consumer spending
- More free time for family and community
What it could be…
If Spokane speaks loud enough on election day, the Worker Bill of Rights would secure a Right to a Family Wage. That family wage would apply to large employers (employing 150 full-time equivalent workers). Large employers are in the best position to be able to pay a family wage. As an applaudable but rare example, Costco has even gone further in paying their workers even more than what a family wage for a household of 2 would be here in the City of Spokane.
The Worker Bill of Rights right to a family wage would help a single parent with one child meet their basic needs.
Adopting the Worker Bill of Rights would fulfill a promise made in the city’s Comprehensive Plan along with a litany of supportive studies, political party platform statements, and widespread common sense that workers need to be paid fairly, and fairly means an amount to cover the basic needs to make it in this day and age.