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Payin' Relief

Do your employees need a living wage law to get by?

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This story appears in the August 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Over the past six months, the living wage movement, which promotes establishing wage floors higher than the prevailing minimum wage, has been transformed from a growing force into a juggernaut that could affect all entrepreneurs. And as the movement gains power, many business owners have begun examining whether living wages actually benefit the poor and are now reconsidering their salary structures.

Living wages are set by municipal or town governments; among the highest living wages is the one put in place by the city of Santa Monica, California, at $12.55. Though the living wage movement has existed since the early 1990s, until this year municipalities had only enacted legislation that mandated living wages for government contractors or large employers. But in March, New Orleans passed a landmark law that covered all businesses, and living wage proponents expect activists in other metropolises to follow the Big Easy's lead.

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