Labor Center Reports
Living Wage Overview
Living Wage Resources
In California, 2 million workers live in families whose incomes remain
below federal poverty standards. They are the working poor: they work
hard, follow the rules, but cannot cannot make ends meet a system
where the value of the minimum wage continues to erode. The purchasing
power of the of the federal minimum wage is now 30% below what it
was in 1968.
Throughout the nation, a growing number of city and county governments
have sought to address this crisis with innovative policies. Since
1993 more than 100 cities and counties — 15 in California —
have passed “living wage” ordinances. These measures mandate
that government service contracts go only to firms that pay workers
a specified minimum compensation level. While the wage level varies
among regions, the stated goal is to insure that workers receive a
livelihood that allows a full time worker to provide food, housing,
health care, child care, and basic transportation for themselves and
their families. These policies prevent the use of taxpayer dollars
to subsidize employers that pay poverty wages and they encourage firms
to compete for city contracts on quality of service and productivity,
rather than with lower labor costs.
The Labor Center and our colleagues at UC Berkeley have conducted
a series of studies to assess the economic impact of living wage initiatives
on the workforce in California.
Photo by Jennifer Borrow
Photo: Jennifer Borrow
to the California Budget Project, in 2001, the
basic family budget for a two-parent family where
both parents work is $12.51 an hour; for a single
parent family it is $ $20.89 an hour.
Budget Project (2003) "Boom, Bust and Beyond: The State
of Working California."
According to a recent ILE study, the
living wage raise to homecare workers in San Francisco
could have reduced the number of people in San
Francisco living below the poverty line by as
much as 15%.
Howes, Candace (2001) "The Impact of Unionization
and the Living Wage Ordinance on the IHSS Homecare Workers
in San Francisco County."