Questions & Answers
on the
Dane County Living Wage Campaign

Q: What is the Living Wage Campaign?
The Living Wage Campaign is an effort by a diverse coalition of community groups to require local government contractors and firms receiving public economic assistance to pay their employees family-supporting wages.

Q: Who will be affected by a living wage campaign?
The living wage campaign is aiming to require coverage of employees of publicly subsidized firms and city, county and Madison Metropolitan School District contractors. A high percentage of workers who will benefit from the ordinance are employed in the social services including home healthcare workers, child care workers and nursing home workers.

Q: How is a living wage defined?
We intend to seek a wage of 110% of the poverty level as defined by the federal government for a family of four. The amount is approximately $8.50 an hour plus health insurance.

Q: Why a living wage campaign?
We believe that the time has come for local units of government to realize that they should not be perpetuating poverty by paying their employees and the employees of those they do business with wages which fall below the poverty line. Of all employers, governments should best know the folly of this bad practice. Poverty-level wages cause workers to utilize social services; services which are most often paid for by local units of government. Why shouldn't workers earn living wages, so that they can be self-supporting members of the community rather than people who, because of inadequate take home pay, require government provided social services?

Q: Is the Madison area the only place to propose legislation like this?
No. Chicago, Los Angeles, Albuquerque and Denver, among others, have ongoing ballot initiatives or pending ordinances. Baltimore, Portland and Jersey City already have living wage laws in effect, as does Milwaukee. It is time for the City of Madison, Dane County and the Madison Metropolitan School District to join these cities in providing better wages for their workers.

Q: What are some benefits of a living wage?
Higher wages would increase the tax base and provide more money for government services. Living wages would decrease the amount of employee turnover for high turnover occupations such as home health care workers. Greater stability of the work force would mean better assistance for those who require government services, such as the disabled. Better wages would allow people to pay for their own child care.

Q: Won't a living wage cause government contractors to lay off workers?
No. There will always be a need for certain services. As long as a need exists there will be businesses willing to bid on contracts to provide those services. A living wage will serve to level the playing field, allowing responsible contractors to compete and discouraging privatization of public sector jobs.

Q: What groups are involved in the Living Wage Campaign?
Along with the efforts of individual activists, religious groups and community organizations, the Living Wage Campaign is being organized by Progressive Dane and the South Central Federation of Labor. As the Dane County chapter of the national New Party, Progressive Dane is dedicated to the belief that involved and organized citizens can make a difference in advancing a progressive agenda. The South Central Federation of Labor is a coordinating council for area labor unions which supports and advances the interests of workers.

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