[Hpn] Universal living Wage Article
Thu, 05 Dec 2002 22:06:52 -0500 (EST)
This is a OP/Ed that was published in the Austin American Statesman recently.
It might help answer some important questions about the Universal Living
ULW Campaign President
It is time to end homelessness and stabilize the base of America’s work
force. The problem of Homelessness can be broken down into three major
categories: affordable housing, health care, and livable incomes.
Part of the livable income picture includes 42% of America’s homeless
population that the federal government says is working. The problem is that
the federal minimum wage is $5.15 per hour.
According to the last several U.S. Conference of Mayors’ reports,
$5.15 per hour or $9,880 per year is an insufficient wage for anyone to get
and keep housing throughout the United States. While some employers are
paying $6.00, $7.00 or even $8.00 per hour, the wage is still not enough to
get or keep most folks in housing.
Senator Ted Kennedy has a bill to raise the federal minimum wage by $1.50
over the next two years. The problem is that the day that bill gets passed,
not one minimum wage worker can then work themselves off the streets in the
very city where it is passed.
Others wonder about the approach of paying a flat national minimum wage
of say $10.00 per hour. Again, that would not afford any minimum wage worker
an efficiency apartment in cities such as Washington D.C. , Santa Cruz,
California or even Austin, Texas. At the same time, that flat wage would
swamp small businesses all across America in cities like Biloxi, Mississippi
or Harlingen, Texas. In fact, this is Congress’s biggest problem; one wage
size no longer fits all.
It is recognized that the single most expensive item in everyone’s budget
is housing. In response, we’ve devised a single national formula that is
indexed to the local cost of housing across the U.S. The Universal Living
Wage Formula (ULW) ensures that anyone working a 40 hour week will be able to
afford basic rental housing throughout the U.S. Using a single formula,
each city and Fair Market Rent (FMR) designated area, has a wage relative to
the local cost of living based on housing.
The formula is based on existing government guidelines:
• spend no more than 30% of income on housing,
• HUD Fair Market Rents (FMR),
• a 40 hour week.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under its Section 8
housing rental program, annually determines what a person can reasonably
expect to spend on rental housing across the U.S. for an efficiency, one,
two, three, and four bedroom apartment. These amounts are referred to as
Fair Market Rents.
Over the past five years, due to the Herculean efforts of local
initiatives, the concept of a “living wage” has swept America. However, even
with 90 local campaigns, less than 100,000 workers are represented. Between
monied opposition and unorganized rural America, this won’t bring wage equity
to all 11.8 million minimum wage workers for about 3000 years. In the
1930’s, the Unions answered this question by creating the Federal Minimum
Wage . Our goal today is to fix it... to everyone's benefit.
The Universal Living Wage Formula is based on the moral premise that
anyone working 40 hours should be able to afford basic rental housing. To
this end, we have launched a national campaign that has garnered wide spread
support across the United States. 595 organizations have endorsed. The
campaign has captured the imagination of unions (i.e. the Communication
Workers of America International boasting 650,000 members), religious
organizations and businesses alike.
Enactment of the Universal Living Wage will create a true
Economic Stimulus Package. The local construction industry all across
America will respond to the need of millions of minimum wage workers’ new
ability to rent non-existing efficiency apartments. “If we build it, they
Based on government statistics, it is estimated that, with
implementation; over one million homeless people will be able to work
themselves off the streets of America while offering businesses stable
workers. . . thus avoiding costly turnover and repetitive retraining costs.
Finally, the plan will prevent economic based homelessness for all 11.8
million minimum wage workers. That’s true Homeland Security. For additional
information visit www.UniversalLivingWage.org.
Richard R. Troxell
Universal Living Wage Campaign
P.O. Box 2312
Austin, TX 78768