It is evident that the mood of the country is shifting, and the IAF is happy to see attention being paid at the national level to the issue of wages. The President has announced plans to sign an executive order mandating a minimum wage of $10.10 / hour for all jobs that emerge from federal contracts.
An IAF affiliate, Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development (BUILD), designed and passed the nation's first living wage ordinance in 1994, requiring that City service contract workers be paid a living wage. Affiliates across the West / Southwest IAF soon launched successful living wage campaigns of their own.
â€¢ In 1998, Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) / Metro Alliance leaders persuaded the City of San Antonio to institute a city-wide tax abatement ordinance requiring companies that benefit from municipal tax incentives to pay a living wage, with benefits. In 2012, they defended that ordinance and helped save their city $8 Million in unnecessary subsidies to a noodle company that set up shop in the area, anyway.
â€¢ In 1998, Pima County Interfaith Council (PCIC) persuaded the City of Tucson to pass a living wage standard. In 2001 one hundred religious and community leaders piled into a Board of Supervisors' hearing to pass a similar Living Wage Ordinance for businesses receiving Pima County contracts.
â€¢ By 2000, MIT economist Paul Osterman estimated that the work of Valley Interfaith in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas raised wages in the region by $9.3 Million per year. The organization's most recent efforts in 2009 leveraged commitments from Cameron County, the City of Brownsville and the Texas Southernmost Community College to raise the starting wages of their employees, including contracted, by over $1 per hour.
â€¢ In 2013, Austin Interfaith succeeded in getting the City of Austin to pass a historic living wage ordinance requiring that any corporation receiving future taxpayer incentives pay the City-established living wage of $11 per hour or prevailing wage, whichever is higher.
In Baltimore, Tucson and cities across Texas, stories about working adults struggling to raise families with wages that are too low to live on were shared in church basements and at food pantries, after school and on work sites. IAF organizations created the space for people to transform their private pain into innovative solutions benefiting not only individual families, but local economies across the nation.
The executive order is an important step towards raising labor standards across the nation, but there remains much to do.