About Us

Mission: The mission of Orange County Living Wage shall be to stimulate shared community prosperity – especially for low-wage workers in Orange County – through employer living wage certification, community education, advocacy, and partnerships.

Orange County Living Wage is a volunteer-driven 501(c)3 nonprofit working to promote a living wage in Orange County, North Carolina.

Through our employer certification program, we recognize local businesses and organizations who pay the 2023 living wage of $16.60 per hour, or $15.10 per hour if the employer pays at least half the cost of health insurance.

Inspired by the success of the nation’s leading living wage certification program, Asheville’s Just Economics, OCLW formed in 2015 to address the effects of the state’s unrealistically low wage floor: the $7.25 federal minimum wage, which has not changed since 2009.

To date, living wage employers have given raises to more than 1,700 employees in Orange County in order to qualify for certification.

Read more about how we got started. OCLW certified our first employer in July of 2015, and seven years later, we’re proud to have certified more than 300 living wage employers, who collectively have raised wages by more than $2.9 million for workers. We have re-certified 80% of our employers once their initial two-year certification expires. Our current certified employer directory includes restaurants, hair salons, automotive shops, breweries, nonprofits, local governments, churches, plumbers, and more.

The 270+ employers on OCLW’s current roster employ more than 8,902 employees in Orange County.

Our goals are to:

  • Reward and recognize employers based in Orange County who pay their workers a living wage
  • Provide employers with incentives to pay a living wage
  • Connect members of the community to living wage certified employers and encourage them to support those businesses and organizations
  • Increase awareness of wage inequality and continually certify more living wage employers in our community

OCLW partners with employers, residents, and workers in the community to create a more just and sustainable local economy that works for all. We welcome participation in our work from all members of the community.

Read an overview of our Strategic Plan, which will guide our work through 2026.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are core values of Orange County Living Wage (OCLW). We celebrate multiple approaches and points of view while promoting DEI in all aspects of our work in the community. To do that well, it is important to prioritize workforces and workplaces that represent all community members. OCLW and our certified employers will continue to build an inclusive and equitable culture that encourages, supports, and celebrates diverse voices.

Mike Benson

Owner, Franklin Motors Beer Garden, Chapel Hill

“In Orange County, we talk a lot about affordable housing, but it’s really not existent anymore in my opinion. So giving people a wage where they can live in the town where they work is critically important. So they’re not commuting from Alamance County or Chatham County. It’s still quite honestly, not enough. The nice thing about the hospitality industry is that people get tips, so what we pay as an hourly wage is guaranteed. And hopefully, [with tips, employees] are going far beyond that; that’s the goal.”

Pictured left to right: JB White, Mike Benson, Victoria Bullock, Jillian Hamrick