Living Wage Laws

Since the early 1990s, more than 120 municipalities across the country have enacted living wage laws to restore the wage floor at the local level. Living wage laws establish wage standards for businesses that receive contracts or subsidies from local governments. They provide a practical way for cities to ensure that public dollars generate quality jobs for local residents. With wage rates ranging from $9 to $16 per hour and higher, living wage laws raise the minimum wage closer to a level that allows low-income workers to meet their families' basic needs. Most living wage laws also create incentives for employers to provide health care by providing wage credits for employers who do so.

NELP has provided extensive legal and policy support for the living wage movement, including:

* Providing legal support to dozens of living wage campaigns in cities ranging from New York to Atlanta to Sacramento; 

* Helping to defend living wage laws (St. Louis, Berkeley, Hudson County) and encourage their enforcement (Buffalo, Hayward); 

* Developing a model living wage law as a resource for local advocates and policymakers; 

* Publishing a report examining the impact of living wage laws on city budgets, and another report projecting the effects of New York City's 2002 living wage law for the city's businesses and working families.

* Providing analysis relating to the 2011 proposal to extend New York City's living wage law to cover major economic development projects that receive city subsidies, including:

Research Brief: Assessment of NYC Living Wage Impact Study (May 12, 2011)
An Overview of Job Quality and Discretionary Economic Development Subsidies in New York City (March 8, 2011)
NELP-FPI Analysis of New York City Wage Study Team (October 27, 2010)
"Experience Shows Living Wage Policies Work," Gotham Gazette (December 14, 2010)

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Paul Sonn, psonn@nelp.org.

Other key resources:

Center for American Progress: Creating Good Jobs in Our Communities: How Higher Wage Standards Affect Economic Development and Employment

Center for Economic and Policy Research: The Wage and Employment Impact of Minimum-Wage Laws in Three Cities

Economic Policy Institute Report on the Economic Impact of Local Living Wages

Economic Policy Institute: Minimum Wage Issue Guide

University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute

UC Berkeley Labor Center

Wayne State Guide to Organizing a Living Wage Campaign