Principles for a Memphis Living Wage Ordinance
Work is fundamental to who we are as human beings. Work has different meanings for different people, but for all workers, it is the way we meet our basic needs, sustaining ourselves and our families. For many Memphians, however, working hard is not enough. Many full-time workers still have to seek food stamps and other forms of public assistance, and/or working additional jobs just to make ends meet. Work that does not allow workers to care for their families is unjust and unsustainable, both for workers and for the entire community.
The members of the Memphis Living Wage Coalition believe that all full-time workers should earn wages that allow them to make a living. Jobs should be a means for workers to meet their families’ basic needs for shelter, food, clothing, medical care, child care, and transportation. Towards this end, we advocate that the City of Memphis relate financially only with companies that pay their workers a living wage. Companies who pay wages that keep their workers in poverty* should not receive taxpayer support. The City of Memphis should also act as a responsible employer by paying its own workers a living wage.
The following principles will guide a Memphis living wage ordinance:
1. As responsible corporate citizens, companies that receive city contracts valued at $25,000 or more and companies that are beneficiaries of economic development subsidies, such as tax abatements, valued at $50,000 or more should be required to pay their employees a living wage. The City of Memphis should lead by example in paying its own employees a living wage as well.
Vulnerable programs of special concern to the community, such as youth job training programs, may be exempted from the ordinance.
2. A living wage shall be defined as at least $20,000 annually plus health benefits. Employers covered by the ordinance may comply by paying $10 per hour plus health benefits, or $12 per hour without health benefits. The living wage should be indexed to keep pace with inflation.
3. A living wage oversight committee, composed of members from the city council, community and faith groups, labor unions, and businesses, shall be created to oversee enforcement of the ordinance.
4. Beneficiaries of city assistance who violate the provisions of the ordinance shall be subject to sanctions which may include (but are not limited to) terminating current assistance, repayment of city assistance, fines paid to the city, and wage restitution to individual covered employees.
*See “Living Wage Facts” for more information on wage levels required to keep a family out of poverty.
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