The typical minimum wage worker in Washington will earn just $17,784 per year ($8.55/hour * 2080 hours). That might be enough for a teen still living at home (although only 1/4 of minimum wage earners are teenagers), but it falls far short of $38,434, the estimated basic family budget for a single parent and child family in Seattle. Even a dual-income household earns just $35,568 per year at the minimum wage — far below the $52,507 budget needed for a two-parent, two-child family in Seattle.
Many low wage workers also don’t receive workplace benefits. For example, just 23% of full-time employees in Washington’s ‘accommodation and food service’ industry received medical insurance. Imagine how expensive a visit to the doctor or emergency room looks when you earn the minimum wage.
No surprise then that ‘living wage’ movements are beginning to take shape in more than a dozen cities and states across the country:
The minimum wage is not nearly enough to support a family, and that’s the recognition behind a new wave of organizing in the living wage movement. In the past, living wage laws have typically applied just to employers who have contracts with a city (for example, to provide janitorial services for government buildings). This time around, advocates are hoping to go broader and cover economic development projects that receive public subsidies – and they are succeeding in making their case.
Learn more about these proposals and where they are taking place in Annette Bernhardt’s column, Wage Policy from the Grassroots.