By George Reed, Retired Executive Director
Last week brought the welcome news that Wake County’s commissioners had voted unanimously to raise the county’s lowest-paid workers up to what commissioners calculate to be a living wage for the county — $13.50 per hour. There are, of course, various ways to calculate what that amount should be, but $13.50 is considerably better than the current national minimum wage of $7.25 and a significant raise for the county’s lowest paid employees, who are earning just more than $11.00. Wake County joins Greensboro, Greenville, Asheville, and Durham in paying a more livable wage to their own workers, and it moves to the head of the pack at $13.50. Several other counties and municipalities pay significantly more than minimum wage.
The NC Council of Churches has supported the rights of workers for most of its 80-year history. Workers are entitled to be fairly compensated for their labor, and the idea that they should earn enough through full-time employment to meet their basic living expenses would seem to be not only a teaching of many religions but also a principle of common human decency.
It turns out that it is also good for local economies. Last week the NC Justice Center released its latest report – this one on the impact of local governments and what they pay their own employees. The full report is worth reading, as it emphasizes the pragmatic, positive impacts on a community which pays its own government workers fairly. You can read a summary of the report by clicking here or the full 12-page report here.
An excellent review of why people of faith care about wages may be found in “Workers Are Worth Their Keep,” produced by the NC Council of Churches in 2011. It includes what the Bible teaches, what theologians have written, and what denominations proclaim through their official statements. Read it by clicking here.