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November 22, 1999
Living Wage Movement Expands to More Locales
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etimes it seems like there are two labor markets in America. The one heard about most lately is the tight employment marketplace - employers who can't find workers at any price. But there is another market too, where unskilled labor appears to be cheap and plentiful. This market is where the "Living Wage" movement has become very popular, and it is the strongest in cities, particulary in California.

There are now 40 places in the U.S. where living wage ordinances have been passed. The trend has been for about one new such law per month. Most affect only businesses who deal with the government, or are in certain business districts supported by government funds.

The first living wage law was passed in Baltimore in 1994, where the minimum wage is $7.70 per hour. Santa Monica, California has an ordinance requiring that all employers with more than 50 workers pay at least $10.69 per hour in a special waterfront tourist zone supported by the City. Some of the other cities in the minimum wage movement include Tucson ($9.00), New Haven ($8.03), Chicago ($7.60), Milwaukee ($6.56), Jersey City ($7.50), Boston ($8.23), and Durham, N.C. ($7.55). San Francisco is currently considering such a law. Each applies the law to workers in different ways.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, 28.5 million workers make less $8 per hour, a figure which advocates of the living wage say is not adequate.

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