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Advocacy group’s report pegs ‘living wage’ at $16.13 for single adults

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on March 5, 2013 at 4:40 pm | No Comments »
March 5, 2013 4:44 pm
Rep. Mike Sells
Rep. Mike Sells

Two advocacy groups worried about the difficulties faced by low-wage workers have produced a new Job Gap Report for 2012, documenting what they say are “broken bootstraps” that keep many workers from rising out of poverty. The report was handed out at the Capitol last week by liberal advocacy group Washington Community Action Network and the left-of-center Alliance for a Just Society.

One finding in the 14th yearly report is that a livable wage in Washington state is now $16.13 an hour for a single adult, based on an assessment of the cost for basic needs such as food, shelter, transportation, healthcare, and savings of 10 percent for a rainy day. The figure is much higher – $28.71 or $59,715 a year – for a single adult with two young children.

Democratic state Rep. Mike Sells of Everett is using the report as the basis for a work session on Wednesday morning in the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee starting at 8 a.m.

You can read the report here.

During a press conference last week attended by Sells and Democratic Rep. John McCoy of Tulalip, a few low-wage workers talked about the difficulty they have getting by on the minimum wage, which at $9.19 in Washington is the highest in the country.

Malon Kelly, a 22-year-old custodian in Olympia, said she earns the minimum wage and falls well short of the $2,795 a month deemed a living wage. Kelly said she gets buy on $1,000 to $1,400 a month, most recently less. “Even a $30 bill for my doctor can throw my budget off,” she said.

Sells said a key for the Legislature is expanding workforce training opportunities that can help low-wage workers move up to better paying jobs.

Sells also is pushing for passage of a controversial measure,  House Bill 1440, which he says would crack down on “wage theft,” which he contends occurs when companies wrongly classify a worker in order to pay him as an independent contractor not subject even to the minimum wage protections.

HB 1440 is still in House Rules. The bill moved out of committee over objections from unified Republican lawmakers, and a public hearing on the bill drew strong opposition to changing the Wage Payment Act. Testifying against it were the Association of Washington Business, the construction, retail and maritime industries, and others.

Some regarded the bill a major departure from past practice and rules that had been agreed-to by business, labor and the Department of Labor and Industries.

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