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New program launched to promote living wage

Coalition for Economic Justice

Employers who pay workers a living wage can apply for certification in a program that will encourage customers to patronize enrolled businesses.Living wage advocates say the new initiative will see groups distribute material that promotes certified businesses, public agencies and non-profit groups.

“It’s really a way to highlight companies that are doing the right thing by paying their workers a livable wage,” said Andy Reynolds, an organizer with the Coalition for Economic Justice.

The coalition has banded together with several other local groups and religious leaders in developing the certification program. Buffalo’s Living Wage Ordinance will be used as the standard for certification. As of Jan. 1, the city’s living wage is $12.85 per hour if an employer does not provide health insurance and $11.45 per hour if an employer offers health insurance.

“We need to get beyond paying employees a minimum wage, which is really a poverty wage,” Reynolds said.

During a news conference at Pilgrim-St.Luke’s United Church of Christ on Richmond Avenue on Buffalo’s West Side, advocates maintained that paying employees a living wage helps the economy by giving people greater buying power.

Living wage certification programs have been established in other regions across the country. A program that was launched in the Ithaca region a couple years ago currently has nearly 100 employers on its certification list, said Reynolds.

Employers interested in learning more about the program or applying for certification can visit the Coalition for Economic Justice web page.