A living wage in Little Rock | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A living wage in Little Rock

Posted By on Sun, May 15, 2011 at 4:49 AM

Good timing, with our recent posting of the first comprehensive listing of pay for city of Little Rock workers.

In recent public meetings on a city sales tax proposal, city officials were asked why the city hasn't adopted a "living wage" for its workers as, say, the Central Arkansas Library System has. A living wage is considered pay sufficient to support a family of four at the poverty level.

City Manager Bruce Moore prepared this memo, telling the City Board that the city thinks it is doing reasonably well on paying a living wage. But he had to manipulate the numbers dramatically to do it, using as a baseline the pay figure necessary to support ONE person, not a family, at the poverty level. All full-time employees make this amount, $8.30 an hour, but a number of part-time employees don't make $9.55, $8.30 plus an additional $1.25 to pay for the health benefits that full-time employees receive.

(Moore said the city could reach single-person (not family) poverty level pay for the part-timers with about $330,000 additional a year. The city's annual $200,000 handout to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce thus would pay about half of a subsistence payout to $7.25-an-hour city laborers, though it would fall far short of providing them a living wage for themselves AND a family. Not to worry. The chamber's corporate welfare scheme will rain high-paying jobs on all of them any year now.)

Arkansas Community Organizations, the successor to ACORN as a grassroots advocate for working poor, disputed Moore's numbers.

It responded to his memo this way:

To: City Manager Bruce Moore and Mayor Mark Stodola
From: Neil Sealy, Arkansas Community Organizations
Re: Living Wage

In 2000 the Central Arkansas Labor Council, faith based organizations and ACORN urged the City of Little Rock to adopt a Living Wage ordinance that would set a wage floor for city employees, employees of city contractors and employees of companies receiving city tax breaks. The living wage was based on the amount needed to support a family of four at the federal poverty level. The proposal also called another $1.25 per hour if the employee did not receive health benefits. The living wage was indexed to inflation.

Since that time, the Central Arkansas Library System and the City of Pine Bluff have adopted living wage policies.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal poverty level for a family of four in 2011 is $22,350. A worker would need to earn approximately $10.75 per hour to make a living wage based on the proposal given to the city in 2000 by the Little Rock living wage coalition.

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