Group wants local employers to take $15-an-hour pledge

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, October 31, 2017 9:6AM

A group in the Monadnock region has discovered the living wage in the area. And that number isn’t close to the statewide minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Linda Rubin, director of the Healthy Community Initiative at Healthy Monadnock, said if you’re a single 35-year-old woman in the region, a living wage falls at $15 per hour mark.

The Living Wage Monadnock calculator sets aside $211.50 for food, $199 for health insurance, $99.37 for health care, $58.17 for dental, $1,000 for housing and utilities, $388.57 for transportation, $104.83 for clothing, $114.14 for personal care, and $30 for cell phone per month. That’s a total of $2,205.58 per month or a total of $26,466.96 for just the basics.

“Most of the people in our region are paying 50 percent toward rent,” Rubin said. “That’s difficult. It’s very costly to live here and wages are not keeping up with inflation.”

The reality is 29 percent of households earn less than $25,000 per year, a wage that equates to a full-time worker earning $12 an hour.

“An hourly wage of this kind is inadequate to maintain a safe and decent standard of living,” the Living Wage Monadnock website says.

It says 40 percent of the Monadnock region workers make less than a living wage at their jobs.

New Hampshire’s minimum wage currently sits at $7.25 per hour, according to the New Hampshire Department of Labor. The tipped minimum wage is $3.27 per hour.

The Granite State comes in far below neighboring states. The minimum wage in Massachusetts is $11 per hour, Vermont’s is $10 per hour, and Maine’s is $9 per hour.

State Rep. Carol Roberts (D-Hillsborough) said New Hampshire defaults to the federal minimum wage and that’s a problem.

“We think not having an adequate minimum wage leads to a lack of interest to stay or move here,” Roberts said, highlighting the state’s struggle to retain young people.

Roberts said she has served two terms in the House. During her first term, a bid to bump the minimum wage up didn’t even make it to the floor.

She said Republicans argue small business owners can’t afford to compensate their employees $15 per hour, but she said other companies are complaining about how difficult it is to recruit and retain talent.

Messages to several legislators who are against raising the minimum wage weren’t returned.

Rubin said when the coalition ended a living wage number for the Monadnock region they talked about what they could do in order to improve the situation. She said there was some discussion about tackling the issue from a political standpoint, but the group instead decided to launch a campaign to encourage employers to jump on board instead.

“We really wanted employers to see this as an issue and take the lead on providing a $15 per hour baseline wage,” Rubin said.

She said their goal is to have 50 businesses and organizations take the pledge to offer employees a living wage by 2020. Their crusade started back in 2015 and so far seven companies have pledged to offer their employees a living wage.

Rubin said those companies are listed on the Living Wage Monadnock website.

Out of the seven, none are from the 16 towns the Ledger-Transcript covers. The majority that have taken the pledge are located in Keene.

Rubin said one of the biggest benefits for businesses who provide their employees with a living wage include recruitment and retention rates. She said one company in Gilsum treats their employees so well that when they post a job, the company receives upwards of 150 applications.

From that pool, “they can truly hire the best people.”

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.