New Year, New [Higher] Wages
In 2022, we welcomed 48 Orange County employers to our roster of living wage employers. Compare that to 2021, when we added 34 employers! Are you the leader of an Orange County business or organization that wishes to join the ranks in 2023? Here are some tips to help you achieve this goal as we enter this new year!
- Run the numbers, and determine when you might be able to hit this milestone. Measure the wage gap – meaning, compare current wages with the benchmark to understand what lies ahead. Our 2023 living wage is $16.60 an hour, or $15.10 for employers who pay at least half of employees’ health insurance costs. The certification will be in effect for the next two years, and then there’s a more streamlined process to be recertified based on the living wage that is in place at the time of your recertification. Prospective living wage employers: OCLW can connect you with a certified employer, in a similar industry, who can share some tricks of the trade. A mentor of sorts. Reach out to us.
- Assess whether your overall model might be due for a second look. Nicholas Stroud of Belltree Cocktail in Carrboro wanted to raise his wage to more than $15 per hour but didn’t think that should mean he should hold back any tips – so now his workers earn a living wage plus gratuity. “You should have seen the smiles on [my team’s] faces,” he told The Local Reporter. “They were happy to come to work and proud to work here.”
Glasshalfull eliminated the tip obligation when they reopened following Covid. Their website states: “You will notice that our menu prices have increased. In order to eliminate the tip obligation, we raised prices by the average percentage tip previously paid at Glasshalfull. This makes it possible to provide fair and equitable pay for our employees and an excellent experience for you at approximately the same price you used to pay. Glasshalfull has been involved with Orange County Living Wage since 2016 when we were certified as a Living Wage Employer. Our lowest starting hourly wage at Glasshalfull is $16 an hour, topping out at $30. We care about all of our employees, and we pay our service employees a real living wage. If you feel your service team goes above and beyond, may we suggest an optional gratuity of 3%, 4%, 5%, or a custom amount in lieu of the current obligatory 18%, 20%, or 22%.”
- Document your “why.” Put pen to paper to express why this is important for your business/organization and what it would mean to you personally, to your patrons, to your team, and to the larger community as a whole. Getting clear on your motivation will help you reach your goal. “We decided to pay a living wage because it aligns with one of our core values – ‘belonging,’” says Jacklyn Goggins, executive director of B3 Coffee. “To us, belonging means respecting the worth and dignity of all people in the workplace and beyond. To us, a living wage means equitable access to purposeful and community-oriented work. A living wage benefits our employees, business and the broader community because it means we are doing our part to shift power to marginalized communities.”
Mark Overbay of Big Spoon Roasters recently told us: “As a small, family-owned business, we prioritize taking care of our people and their families because healthy and inspired people are empowered to create nutritious and delicious food. When we had the vision for Big Spoon Roasters back in 2010, we had a clear goal of creating a different kind of food business – the type of place we’d like to work – that makes the kinds of no-compromise foods we love to eat, and helps people develop a healthier relationship with our planet. Every business decision is made with this mission in mind.”
Vera Fabien of Ten Mothers Farm shared: “Paying a living wage means our farmers have stable, year-round jobs and can stick around longer than one season, which makes our business more resilient. Skilled long-term farmers make for better vegetables and better service for our CSA customers. It’s taken us a number of years to get to this point, but it feels really good to finally be here, and we believe it’s a win-win situation for all of us.”
- Be transparent with your employees – and other key stakeholders – about your plans. St. Thomas More Catholic Parish of Chapel Hill’s leaders took a strategic approach to ensure that they could support their living wage goal in the long term. But they informed parishioners – about 2,800 families representing about 8,000 individuals – that this was something they were working toward. “Even before we started the offertory appeal, we let folks know that this is a goal we have. We shared that we weren’t there yet and explained why,” says the Rev. Scott E. McCue.
In October 2021, living wages were announced as a key component of the parish’s annual increased offertory appeal; parishioners are annually asked to think strategically about their financial gifts to the parish. In short, leaders made the case that as the cost of living increases, so, too, must wages. The parish became certified in the spring of 2022.
5. Share information about Orange County Living Wage with your employees – so that they can understand how the current living wage is calculated, how the application process works, what our current roster looks like, and how we work to connect living wage employers to job seekers. Our website – orangecountylivingwage.org – is chock full of information about our history, our living wage employers and employees, and more! You can also view our past newsletters.
6. If there is a business or organization on our roster that you are familiar with, reach out to its leaders and ask them to have a conversation about what they have learned along the way. Maggie Funkhouser, the manager of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, learned about the Orange County Living Wage certification program through living wage employers in the community – market vendors, restaurants, and others, including the Town of Carrboro. “We have a really wonderful relationship [with the Town of Carrboro], and there’s a lot of mutual support,” she says. “Certainly, them being living wage certified is a hugely impactful thing, and it affected me.” The market became living wage certified in 2022.
7. Reach out to Orange County Living Wage so that you can be notified of upcoming networking opportunities. In the new year, OCLW aspires to host events in certified living wage employers’ spaces so that prospective living wage employers and current living wage employers can exchange tips, swap strategies, put their heads together about creating and maintaining a successful living wage workplace.