The Living Wage Movement

In 1994, an effective alliance between labor (led by AFSCME) and religious

leaders (BUILD) in Baltimore launched a successful campaign for a local law

requiring city service contractors to pay a living wage. Since then, strong community, labor, and religious coalitions have fought for and won similar ordinances in cities such as St. Louis, Boston, Los Angeles, Tucson, San Jose, Portland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Oakland — bringing the national living wage total to 109 ordinances. Today, more than 75 living wage campaigns are underway in cities, counties, states, and college campuses across the country. Taken collectively, these impressive instances of local grassroots organizing are now rightfully dubbed the national living wage movement, which syndicated columnist Robert Kuttner has described as “the most interesting (and underreported) grassroots enterprise to emerge since the civil rights movement … signaling a resurgence of local activism around pocketbook issues.”

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