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Ventura County Perspective

Living Wage Ordinance

April 22, 2001

Re "Proposal Is the Wrong Instrument to Fight Poverty," Ventura County Perspective, April 15.

Don Facciano's article misses the point of the proposed living wage ordinance. The rationale behind the living wage proposal is that taxpayer money should not be used to create more poverty-level jobs.

Without a living wage ordinance, high-road employers--those who would rather have a stable work force and produce a high-quality product--have to compete for contracts with low-road employers, who provide a poorer-quality product at a lower cost. Living wage ordinances encourage businesses to take the high road, leading to higher-quality services for the public and a more highly trained work force.

Improvements in quality are the result of employers investing more in training and retaining their existing work force. The economic evidence disproves Facciano's prediction that employers will replace less-skilled workers as a result of a living wage ordinance. Research on the minimum wage suggests that living wage ordinances will not cause job loss among less-skilled workers.

Finally, Facciano perpetuates the myth that most low-wage workers are young and are not the sole supporters of their families. In fact, in 1999, 70% of workers earning between $5.15 and $6.15 per hour were adults (age 20 or over) and the average minimum-wage worker brings home more than half of his or her family's weekly earnings.

Experience from the more than 50 living wage laws around the country shows that living wage ordinances provide real benefits to affected workers without hurting the business climate or bankrupting city or county budgets.

CHAUNA BROCHT

Economic Policy Institute

Washington, D. C.

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