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How much does it cost to live in this town? What does it take to cover basic food, clothing, shelter and utilities? Is it an irresponsible luxury to have kids, a car, or medical problems?

A coalition of groups in Sacramento looked at the problem of poverty in our city and proposed that Sacramento join more than 100 across the nation in passing a Living Wage ordinance. Using the results of numerous studies, the Sacramento Living Wage Campaign arrived at a wage of $10/hour with health benefits or $12.84/hour without as the "living wage" for our city.

Who's being asked to pay this wage? The Living wage proposal requires companies receiving more than $25,000 in contracts or $100,000 in subsidies from the city to pay a living wage to its employees. Our taxes pay these companies and we as taxpayers have a right to impose some conditions on the money.

The Sacramento City Council held a special session to discuss the issue of becoming a Living Wage city on January 9, 2003, attended by an overflow crowd in the County Board of Supervisors Building. So many concerned citizens showed up on this rainy night that chairs and closed circuit TV had to be provided outside the supervisors' chambers for all to witness this potentially historic event.


  January is a time for new beginnings, but also rainy weather, and that is what these Living Wage advocates endured as they stood in the rain outside the Supervisors' Building before the City Council Hearing at 7:00. Warner Miles (left) is a member of SEIU Local 250, one of the many labor unions that support the Living Wage Ordinance.



Pam Johnson (SEIU Local 250-Kaiser Hospital) wearing the shirt that explains the big Union presence at the Living Wage City Council Hearing. Though few if any Union members will benefit directly from the ordinance, Union members support living wages for fellow workers and know that it takes unified action to make this sort of thing happen.

Jackie Goldberg, Assemblyperson from LA is speaking to the crowd here, while Bill Camp (Central Labor Council) holds the umbrella. LA is a Living Wage city. Jackie made the point that people should be able to live on what they earn. She cited the example of the Staples Center in LA, where billionaire developers and millionaire athletes got a sports stadium subsidized by the city of LA. "Why can't we subsidize the working people who provide services to the city by giving them a living wage?" she asked.

More than 75 groups supported the Living Wage Campaign, among them ACORN, Mercy Housing California, Midtown Clergy, Mosaic Law Congregation, Peace Action, Gray Panthers, Emergency Food Bank, and the Sacramento Labor Council to name just a random few.

Despite the diversity of support, a "Sacramento Bee" editorial on 1/9/03 claimed that the Living Wage Ordinance would benefit unions rather than the working poor, implying that unions were supporting this issue to improve their own condition. During the City Council Hearing, union member Matt Kelly, (Building Trades) spoke to the insult union members felt at the Bee's implication, reminding the Council and all present that unions had fought for the rights in the workplace that most in the room now enjoyed.



Is that Michele from Mercy General wearing the Local 250 shirt and holding the ACORN sign? Yes, it is. Michele is a shop steward participating in the political action side of being in a Union. Mercy employees joined Local 250 a year ago (Nov. 2001) and support the right of employees to join unions. The Living Wage Ordinance supports the right of workers to organize.

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