NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cities Get On Living Wage Bandwagon

November 19, 1999

A small but increasing number of employers who do business with local governments are suddenly finding themselves having to grant big raises and benefits to their lower-wage employees.

Forty cities and counties in 17 states have enacted such so-called "living wage" laws in the past five years. The amounts involved can be considerable.

  • Tucson has the highest living wage at $9 per hour -- followed closely by Los Angeles at $8.76, Boston at $8.23 and New Haven at $8.03.
  • Cities that require municipal contractors to pay between $7 and $8 an hour include Baltimore, Jersey City, Duluth, Minn., Durham, N.C. and Chicago.
  • Nationwide, 28.5 million people ages 18 to 64 earn less than $8 an hour and 15.7 million make between $8 and $9.99.
  • Recently, local wage ordinances have been adopted at the rate of one a month, experts report -- and more than 50 other cities and counties are considering passing them.

The movement has broadened from a simple emphasis on higher wages to encompass a wide range of requirements involving health insurance, vacations, sick pay, job security and incentives to unionize.

Source: Louis Uchitelle, "Minimum Wages, City by City," New York Times, November 19, 1999.


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