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Just Economics, a local nonprofit organization most known for promoting living wages, announces an increase in the local living wage rate for 2013. Just Economics uses a formula based on the local cost of living to determine the local living wage rate and how that wage rate is adjusted. The organization’s mission is to educate, advocate, and organize for a just and sustainable local economy that works for all in Western North Carolina. Just Economics promotes living wages through policy advocacy, a living wage employer certification program, and community education.
Although the rate has not changed since 2008, the formula, which is based on the cost of living in our area, dictates a rate change in 2013. The new rate reflects a roughly 4.5% increase over the previous rate. The new rate will be $11.85/hr for those employees that are not offered employer provided health insurance and $10.35 /hr for those that are offered employer provided health insurance. “We spent a lot of time discussing the formula Just Economics uses to adjust the wage rate,” Says Vicki Meath, Just Economics Director, “Had it not been for the economic downturn of 2008, we probably would have seen an increase in the wage rate prior to this year, but I am very proud of the work we did in creating a formula for adjustment that keeps up with the changes in cost of living but mitigates volatility in the rate.”
The formula that Just Economics uses for calculating a Living Wage is explained on their website. (refer to the “About Living Wages” tab, there is a link on that page regarding the 2013 wage rate)
Just Economics has successfully advocated for a living wage policy with the City of Asheville and a policy for Buncombe County employees and will continue to work with both the City and the County to move toward the new rate.
The wage rate change will have the most direct impact on the organization’s Living Wage Employer Certification Program. Just Economics organizes the largest Living Wage Employer Certification program in the nation, with over 300 local businesses in WNC committing to pay a Living Wage to their staff.
Living Wage Certified Employers were notified of the wage rate change in December but will have some time to make adjustments in their wages scale. “The response from employers has been primarily positive,” says Mark Hebbard, Just Economics Living Wage Employer Certification Program Coordinator, “I think for the most part, employers that we work with understand that the Living Wage rate changes in relation to our cost of living.” He goes on, “Our certified employers are committed to providing a wage that their employees can live on and take pride in the fact that their business management skills allow for that.” In essence, the rate is increasing 50 cents an hour, up from the $11.35/hr for employees not offered health insurance and $9.85/hr for those receiving employer provided health Insurance that have been in place since the program’s inception. This change is an increase of less than 1% annually since the program’s start in 2008.
“As a busy, growing business it is important to us to have Just Economics as a social conscience. I am committed to the concept of providing Living Wages and rely on Just Economics for advising on what those wage rates are,” said Time Schaller, owner of the Wedge, a Living Wage Certified Employer.
Just Economics certifies employers paying a living wage and the certification is good for two years. Business owners up for recertification in 2013 can opt to sign up for a two year certification at the new rate or keep the current rate for the remainder of 2013 and make the necessary adjustments and apply for re-certification in 2014.
The Certification program aims to reward existing Living Wage Certified Employers in our community, to provide employers with tools and incentives to increase workers’ wages up to a living wage, to connect consumers to employers that provide a living wage, and to promote a just and sustainable local economy. The program is an innovative approach to addressing the ongoing issue of poverty in WNC; employers are encouraged and rewarded for providing wages that allow their employees to meet their basic needs without public or private assistance.
“I am hoping that by being a certified living wage employer I am getting my message out through another channel that my business does things a little differently. First and foremost we make a legitimate product that is built to last, we source high performing, durable materials that are made as close to home as possible, and we hire qualified people who take pride in their work. An important part of keeping them is paying a living wage. It is easy to see the results in our finished product and I encourage everyone to work to similar goals in their endeavors,” said Bob Callahan, a Living Wage Certified Employer.