Saturday, 14 February 2009

Raising the Minimum Wage - a campaign promise that must be fulfilled for our cities to thrive...

The Stimulus Package has been passed in Congress. It is a big step in the long journey to economic recovery. To wrap up my urban renewal and equal opportunities series of posts (for the time being), I want quickly to draw attention to one of the smaller steps we must take, and which is on the President's urban renewal agenda: Minimum wage. The President proposes to raise minimum wage by 2011 to $9.50 an hour and index it to inflation. Again, this is the type of issue that during hard economic times is also hard push, particularly with employers. Some people will say that we just need to get more people into jobs - ensuring livable wages is icing on cake.

But in both the U.S. and the U.K. we can't let social justice aims be buried because of the recession - this would be counter to a commitment to building sustainable economies and communities. Let's hope the President continues to demonstrate a strong federal commitment to urban renewal, and builds on the Lilly Ledbetter Act, by raising the federal minimum wage. Of course, Equal pay legislation and raising the minimum wage must be part of a wider package of reforms that seek to ensure real employment equity. See, for example, Ann M. O'Leary's concerns about the limits of the Lilly Ledbetter Act in closing the gender wage gap. For a clearer understanding of urban poverty and employment, I suggest a read of Polly Toynbee's Hard Work, which gives a portrait of life in London as a working person in poverty. And for a similar portrait in the U.S. check out Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed.

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