A Durham Living Wage

Fostering a fair and rewarding work environment is of utmost priority for me as an employer and providing a Living Wage is a good place to start.

We here at Savas Labs are proud members of the Durham Living Wage Project. The DLWP (I shortened it) is a new, local organization encouraging Durhamites to take a closer look at wages, fairness, and what they suggest will result in a better society for all.

A living wage: good for business, good for workers.

What is a Living Wage?

Simply stated by the Durham Living Wage Project:

A living wage is the amount of income needed for an individual to meet her or his basic needs without public or private assistance.

Why do we care?

To avoid making any sweeping political and/or philosophical generalizations in my inaugural post, I’ll reference another fellow Triangle-based author (one blog post makes you me an author), Dan Ariely’s words from a Ted Talk of his I watched recently.

In his presentation, Ariely references research he’s done about economic inequality: how stratified we think it is, how we would like it to be, and how stratified it actually is.

How stratified do we (Americans) think wealth is (in quintiles)?

Population Bottom 20% 21-40% 41-60% 61-80% Top 20%
Percentage of total wealth 2.9 6.4 12.0 20.2 58.5

Given this is what we think wealth distribution looks like, the next most intriguing and relative to Living Wage is what we want wealth distribution to be. Like any wise author should, Ariely references another, well-known philosopher John Rawls, to introduce the concept of what we want wealth to be by discussing Rawl’s concept of original position behind the veil of ignorance. Ariely summarizes Rawl’s concept:

He said, the just society, the society that if you knew everything about it, you would be willing to enter within a random place. And it’s a beautiful definition

Ariely illustrates this concept by surveying Americans and asking them what the economic characteristics should be of a country they would choose to join under the veil of ignorance. Survey participants desire the following distribution:

How stratified do we (Americans) want wealth to be (in quintiles)?

Population Bottom 20% 21-40% 41-60% 61-80% Top 20%
Percentage of total wealth 10.5 14.1 21.5 22.0 31.9

Ariely speaks to the diversity of those surveyed about what the ideal distribution of wealth should be:

Liberal and conservatives, rich and poor, men and women, NPR listeners and Forbes readers, citizens of England, Australia, and U.S., and various departments at Harvard, they all gave us basically the same answer.

According to Ariely’s research, we clearly want a more equally shared distribution of wealth than we currently think we have. So what do we have?

How stratified is wealth in the U.S. (in quintiles)?

Population Bottom 20% 21-40% 41-60% 61-80% Top 20%
Percentage of total wealth 0.1 0.2 3.9 11.3 84.4

Ariely points out:

We have this knowledge gap between what we have and what we think we have, but we have at least as big of a gap between what we think is right, to what we think we have.

Therefore the gap between what we actually have and what we think is just, is astronomical. This seems to be the most objective way possible to “prove” that wages are not as balanced as most people want them to be.

Establishing a Living Wage attempts to bring light to this reality, and speaks to the wage floor we ought to consider when Federal minimum wage is doing an insufficient job.

Savasians certainly support the notion that a working citizen ought to be able to support himself or herself in the communities in which we live, work, and play. Thank you DLWP (again, I just shortened it) for being a voice for this issue.

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