You Can Make A Living Wage the Norm
By Crystal Wilson
As a business providing professional services, it is reasonable to assume that Flow Office Wisdom would pay at least a living wage to employees. And you would be correct if you did assume that - we have been committed to paying an amount significantly higher than our local living wage since before we even officially launched the business. We have said many times before, we were not interested in running a business that saw its staff struggling to make ends meet - in fact we believe that to be an entirely unnecessary model of compensation for any business. Simply put, if your business relies on keeping its employees as part of the “Working Poor” or “Low Income Employed” category, you don’t actually have a sustainable model for business.
The issue of Living Wage, and the lack of adherence to it by both governments and many businesses is a major factor in the poverty which is experienced both in North America and around the world. Society’s insistence on getting more for less is one of the major factors in maintaining the status quo of businesses paying as little as they can to their workers. While it is true that we can’t likely impact the attitude of the CEO’s making 287 - 361 times what the average worker in their company makes, there are certainly things we as consumers and small businesses can do to help create a society in which paying less than a living wage becomes a shameful act (I mean, as far as I am concerned it already is a shameful act, but…). Here are just a few:
- Choose to spend your money with businesses who pay a living wage. This can be tricky, because how do you know? Well, some businesses will display a Living Wage Employer badge on their websites or store windows - this is fantastic. If you don’t see one it gets a little harder. You might need to ask. Sometimes this is met with blank stares, but in the best cases, such as the one I enjoyed at an Eddie Bauer store, you will be engaged in a fantastic conversation and provided with a handy one-pager describing a business’s commitment to paying a living wage to its workers. Likely, the most common response you receive will be somewhere in between those two, but even just asking the question can plant the seed.
- Engage in campaigns that create a sense of consumer demand for products and services that are created/provided/packaged/sold by individuals who are paid a living wage. One that is currently in action is the #publishyourwages campaign that has been created by the ethical fashion brand Able. The fashion industry is a primary culprit of paying abysmally low wages, and this campaign aims to create accountability around that. Progress over perfection is a key element in this transparency focussed campaign and that is a great message to reach those who are intimidated by the changes required for many companies to make this switch.
- As a business, become an activist and an advocate. Many organizations exist to provide the tools and resources needed to help promote the case for paying a living wage. Even if you aren’t at a stage where you can commit to it yourself, stating your support for it and taking action publicly and privately can go a very long way. Some organizations to look into are The Living Wage Network, The Better Way Alliance, and The Ontario Living Wage Network .
Here's to re-examine those notions and helping to create a better world for everyone.