Reprinted from The Nation
(image by Gage Skidmore) DMCA
Reasonable people may differ on the precise definition of a living wage. But the consensus is that $7.25 an hour does not come close to the standard for assuring that someone who works full time can earn enough to live above the poverty line.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's administration has formally rejected that consensus view and is now arguing that $7.25 an hour is a living wage.
As with so many economic issues, the virulently anti-labor governor -- who is seeking re-election this year and preparing for a 2016 Republican presidential run -- is wrong on the facts. He is also at odds with the long-held values of Wisconsin, a state that once led the nation is establishing protections for low-wage workers.
Let's begin with the facts:
In his groundbreaking book, A Living Wage: American Workers and the Making of Consumer Society, historian Lawrence Glickman explains a living wage as "a wage level that offers workers the ability to support families, to maintain self-respect, and to have both the means and the leisure to participate in the civic life of the nation."
According to the "Harvard Living Wage Fact Sheet", "Although living wage standards do, by definition, vary by region, they are all considerably higher than the federal minimum wage." The fact sheet continues, "This is because the minimum wage does not begin to meet the needs of working people or families anywhere in the country: in fact, it puts a parent with one child below the federal poverty line. A living wage aims to correct this by establishing, at a local level, a more reasonable minimum wage."