home ||| current issue ||| past stories
about The Prism ||| volunteers ||| other sites

Living Wage Rage Comes to Greensboro

by Pete Castelli,
District director of UNITE!
(United Needleworkers, Industrial, and Textile Employees)


Labor and community activists across the country are pushing for and winning passage of "living wage" ordinances. This type of local law or ordinance requires that a city pay all employees on their payroll a pay rate that is considered a livable wage. These ordinances also require contractors that are paid by the city to pay their employees a "living wage."

What is a living wage? There is much debate concerning what pay rate people need in order to escape poverty. Ordinances requiring a living wage have passed in Boston, Baltimore, New Haven, Los Angeles, St. Paul, New Orleans, Durham, and many others. The amount of the living wage paid in these localities varies.

The guiding principle behind a living wage ordinance is simple. Workers deserve to be paid at a rate that allows them to make a living and support their families. City tax dollars should not be used to support poverty level wages. Someone earning $5.50 or $6.50 per hour is still below the poverty level and must utilize government services to get adequate food, shelter and health care.

Why should taxpayers foot the bill for corporations (contractors) not paying workers a livable wage?

In America corporate profits are soaring. In 1980 the average CEO pay was 40 times the average worker's pay. In 1996 the average CEO made around 212 times what the average worker earned. Cities regularly fork over tax breaks, support money, and services to businesses. Many people believe it is time for people who do the work in Greensboro to be paid a decent "living wage."

A campaign has started in Greensboro to pass a living wage ordinance. The Triad-Central Labor Body is leading the effort. The Triad CLB is a coalition of all area unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The CLB is in the early stages of pulling together information and reaching out to local community activists and organizations.

Recently, representatives from Durham, who successfully worked to pass a living wage ordinance there, gave a presentation to a group of Greensboro union and community activists. The participants pointed out that the living wage issue is tied to a host of others including child care, health care, education, workfare, and others.

There is a committee that is meeting on a regular basis to develop a strategy for the living wage campaign in Greensboro. If you are interested in becoming involved in this campaign, call for meeting times and more information.

In a booming city no one should be left out!

For more information call the UNITE! Union Hall at (336) 273-9709.

  Article courtesy of the Greensboro Gazette, PO Box 14098, Greensboro NC 27405. For circulation info call (336) 379-7267; or e-mail to <spudkat@earthlink.net>.  

home ||| current issue ||| past stories
about The Prism ||| volunteers ||| other sites

Send comments to prism@sunsite.unc.edu.