Paying Living Wage Good For Business, Employers Say

Press Release
For Immediate Release - March 29, 2000
Contact:Betsy Leondar-Wright
(617) 423-2148 x13">

Read the Report

Paying a Living Wage Is Good For Business, Employers Say

New report documents benefits of raising pay

"The growth of my business is due to the high quality of my bread, which in turn is due to the skilled employees I attract and retain with good wages and benefits."

– Jim Amaral, CEO of Maine bakery chain Borealis Breads

Jim Amaral is one of the successful business owners featured in a myth-busting new report "Choosing the High Road: Businesses that Pay a Living Wage and Prosper."

Over 40 cities and counties–including Boston, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Antonio–have adopted living wage ordinances and over 120 living wage campaigns are underway.

"Choosing the High Road" shows why living wages are good for business, as well as workers and communities. The report, published by Responsible Wealth, is available on the web and in hard copy.

Despite the economy’s record-breaking nine-year expansion and skyrocketing CEO pay, the typical worker still earns less, adjusted for inflation, than in 1973, and over one quarter of American jobs pay less than a living wage of $8 an hour. Below that wage, a 40-hour workweek leaves a family of four under the federal poverty line, unable to make ends meet.

A growing number of business people are supporting living wages. Already, over 50 business owners have signed Responsible Wealth’s new Living Wage Covenant, pledging to pay their own employees over $8 an hour, as well as to advocate in the public arena for higher wages for all low-income workers.

"Choosing the High Road," by Karen Kraut, Scott Klinger and Chuck Collins, debunks common arguments made by opponents of higher minimum wages and living wages. It presents research on the business benefits of higher wages: lower worker turnover and absenteeism, reduced training costs, higher morale and higher productivity, and a stronger consumer market.

Borealis Breads CEO Jim Amaral and five other business leaders profiled in the report are available for interviews:


  • Krishna Fells, CEO of a high-tech firm, organized Small Business Owners of Washington State (SBOWS) to support a 1998 ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage.

    "I’d like to let you know that there are many small businesses that support raising the minimum wage. The economic impact of not having a decent minimum wage is detrimental to small business."


  • Barry Hermanson, CEO of Hermanson’s Employment Services, pays his 200-plus temporary office workers $2 to $4 more per hour than other temp services while keeping client billing rates competitive through low overhead and low turnover. Hermanson is co-chair of the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition.

    "I've been able to save money by eliminating advertising expenses. Word of mouth about higher wages and competitive billing brings me good employees and grows the business. Our employees and clients are our marketing department!"


  • Tim Styer, CEO of Urban Works, turned his Philadelphia contract cleaning company into an employee-owned business paying the area living wage – over a dollar an hour more than the local industry standard.

    "We lose some bidding wars to competitors who shortchange their workers, but we do better at keeping clients because of superior performance by Urban Works’ employee-owners."


  • Judy Wicks, owner of the popular White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia, pays her 100 employees well above local restaurant wages.

    "Paying a living wage is difficult in the restaurant business, but I encourage other owners to try it, because it can be done. The traditional value system of running restaurant workers into the ground needs to change in order to create a more fulfilling workplace for everyone."


  • Hal Taussig is the owner of Idyll, Ltd., a $6 million Philadelphia specialized travel business with above average profits along with above average pay and benefits.

    "The benefits we get from paying living wages include low turnover,
    great staff spirit and dedicated employees helping us find ways to keep
    other costs low and quality high."

Responsible Wealth is a growing network of over 450 business people, investors and affluent individuals in the top 5 percent of income and wealth who are concerned about growing economic inequality and working to promote widely shared prosperity. Responsible Wealth is affiliated with the national nonprofit organization United for a Fair Economy.