Living wage

minimum income for worker to meet basic needs

A living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs (food, housing, and other essentials such as health care and clothing). The goal of a living wage is to allow a worker to afford a basic but decent standard of living. Due to the flexible nature of the term "needs", there is not one universally accepted measure of what a living wage is and as such it varies by location and household type.


  • The model for us rich guys should be Henry Ford. When Ford famously introduced the $5 day, which was twice the prevailing wage at the time, he didn't just increase the productivity of his factories, he converted exploited autoworkers who were poor into a thriving middle class who could now afford to buy the products that they made. Ford intuited what we now know is true, that an economy is best understood as an ecosystem and characterized by the same kinds of feedback loops you find in a natural ecosystem, a feedback loop between customers and businesses. Raising wages increases demand, which increases hiring, which in turn increases wages and demand and profits, and that virtuous cycle of increasing prosperity is precisely what is missing from today's economic...
  • June 19, 2013, Bloomberg published an article I wrote called "The Capitalist’s Case for a $15 Minimum Wage." The good people at Forbes magazine, among my biggest admirers, called it "Nick Hanauer's near-insane proposal." And yet, just 350 days after that article was published, Seattle's Mayor Ed Murray signed into law an ordinance raising the minimum wage in Seattle to 15 dollars an hour, more than double what the prevailing federal $7.25 rate is. How did this happen, reasonable people might ask. It happened because a group of us reminded the middle class that they are the source of growth and prosperity in capitalist economies. We reminded them that when workers have more money, businesses have more customers, and need more employees. We reminded them that when businesses pay workers a living wage, taxpayers are relieved of the burden of funding the poverty programs like food stamps and medical assistance and rent assistance that those workers need. We reminded them that low-wage workers make terrible taxpayers, and that when you raise the minimum wage for all businesses, all businesses benefit yet all can compete.
  • I know that most people think that the $15 minimum wage is this insane, risky economic experiment. We disagree. We believe that the $15 minimum wage in Seattle is actually the continuation of a logical economic policy. It is allowing our city to kick your city's ass. Because, you see, Washington state already has the highest minimum wage of any state in the nation. We pay all workers $9.32, which is almost 30 percent more than the federal minimum of 7.25, but crucially, 427 percent more than the federal tipped minimum of 2.13. If trickle-down thinkers were right, then Washington state should have massive unemployment. Seattle should be sliding into the ocean. And yet, Seattle is the fastest-growing big city in the country. Washington state is generating small business jobs at a higher rate than any other major state in the nation. The restaurant business in Seattle? Booming. Why? Because the fundamental law of capitalism is, when workers have more money, businesses have more customers and need more workers. When restaurants pay restaurant workers enough so that even they can afford to eat in restaurants, that's not bad for the restaurant business. That's good for it, despite what some restaurateurs may tell you.
  • Neoliberal economic assumption number one is that the market is an efficient equilibrium system, which basically means that if one thing in the economy, like wages, goes up, another thing in the economy, like jobs, must go down. So for example, in Seattle, where I live, when in 2014 we passed our nation's first 15 dollar minimum wage, the neoliberals freaked out over their precious equilibrium. "If you raise the price of labor," they warned, "businesses will purchase less of it. Thousands of low-wage workers will lose their jobs. The restaurants will close." Except ... they didn't. The unemployment rate fell dramatically. The restaurant business in Seattle boomed. Why? Because there is no equilibrium. Because raising wages doesn't kill jobs, it creates them; because, for instance, when restaurant owners are suddenly required to pay restaurant workers enough so that now even they can afford to eat in restaurants, it doesn't shrink the restaurant business, it grows it, obviously.
  • Over the last 30 years, in the USA alone, the top one percent has grown 21 trillion dollars richer while the bottom 50 percent have grown 900 billion dollars poorer, a pattern of widening inequality that has largely repeated itself across the world. And yet, as middle class families struggle to get by on wages that have not budged in about 40 years, neoliberal economists continue to warn that the only reasonable response to the painful dislocations of austerity and globalization is even more austerity and globalization.
  • I... use my money to build narratives and to pass laws that will require all the other rich people to pay taxes and pay their workers better. And so, for example, the 15-dollar minimum wage that we cooked up has now affected 30 million workers. So that works better.
  • The Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers (AFT), the sec­ond largest teach­ers’ union in the coun­try, passed a res­o­lu­tion in sup­port of the Green New Deal at its bien­ni­al con­ven­tion at the end of July. The Green New Deal, fed­er­al leg­is­la­tion intro­duced in ear­ly 2019, would cre­ate a liv­ing-wage job for any­one who wants one and imple­ment 100% clean and renew­able ener­gy by 2030.... The Green New Deal’s focus on invest­ing in high-speed rail could mean sig­nif­i­cant poten­tial work for elec­tri­cians and rail work­ers like Lib­er­a­to. The leg­is­la­tion also calls for ​“repair­ing and upgrad­ing the infra­struc­ture in the Unit­ed States,” which means fix­ing bridges and roads, retro­fitting build­ings, and updat­ing sewage and water sys­tems. And the AFT’s green school build­ings cam­paign will need the sup­port of build­ing trades unions, like elec­tri­cians, plumbers, roofers, and boil­er­mak­ers. All of this infra­struc­ture work means more union jobs — but only if the labor move­ment acknowl­edges the true mag­ni­tude of cli­mate change and decides to play a lead­er­ship role in fight­ing it.
  • Maryland’s Senate passed a bill Thursday that gradually increases the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, delivering another victory to supporters of the national “Fight for $15” campaign that has ushered in wage increases in other states... Other states and jurisdictions — including New Jersey, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia — have raised their minimum wages. A bill making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives would raise the federal minimum to $15. Meanwhile, major companies including Amazon, Target, Whole Foods and Costco have all embraced $15 minimums.

See also

Wikipedia has an article about: