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What Is A Living Wage?

"Now is the time to make an adequate income a reality for all of God's children, now is the time for city hall to take a position for that which is just and honest."
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A living wage is a wage which is based upon the cost of living in an area, rather than an arbitrary minimum. Under an ideal living wage, someone who works an ordinary 40 hour per week job would be able to afford shelter, food, health care, and other basic necessities of life. Existing legislation defines a living wage in New York City as a minimum of $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 per hour without benefits. (Click here for the Living Wage Calculator).

Living wage laws either require that any company receiving city contracts or subsidies must pay its workers a wage above the federal minimum. New York City passed a living wage law in 2002, but the law only covers a limited number of workers, and does not apply to employees who work in privately-owned, publicly-subsidized developments, such as stadiums, convention centers and shopping malls.

When public dollars are used to promote private enterprise, the public has the right to expect something in return: good jobs at good wages with good benefits. A new living wage ordinance that covers employees who work on projects receiving public subsidies would be a valuable tool in reducing poverty for all New Yorkers.