31 October 2014
There has been a lot of discussion about income inequality in our country lately – we are living in a time when wealth is concentrated among the richest Americans, and the gap between the richest and everyone else is the widest it’s been since the 1920’s. Many people work hard, often at multiple jobs, and still struggle to pay rent and put food on the table. The idea that if you just work hard enough, you can get ahead, doesn’t bear out for everyone.
At Home Forward, we provide housing that helps our neighbors who are struggling economically. We hear and read a lot about poor people living off the system, not doing their fair share, being lazy and dependent. We watch these same people get on the bus to go to their job each day, and see that even with a paycheck, food stamps, and housing help, our residents struggle to get ahead. The reality of living in poverty is a lot harder than the easy, cruel, and inaccurate sound bites we hear so often would make it seem.
Home Forward does what we can to use our housing resources wisely and to help as many families as possible, and we will strive to do more. We also recognize that our role in the community is not just as a housing provider, but as an employer. That role is much smaller – we house around 15,000 households and employ less than 300 people – but it’s important, especially to those who work here. That’s why we are excited to announce that we are establishing a wage floor of $15 per hour for our staff, effective December 1, 2014.
There are many complex factors that contribute to income inequality, but raising wages is one of the most straightforward and impactful actions that can be taken to address this issue. Home Forward’s wage floor will lift the take-home pay of a small group of people, and it won’t solve the problems of the world. But it matters to them, and it matters to us to do what we can. We hope others will push forward with us to increase minimum wages and start leveling the economic playing field, so working hard helps everyone get ahead.
If you’d like to learn more about what we’re doing, please read the FAQ that follows. I'm also very pleased that our labor partners joined us in making this official -- you'll see a photo commemorating the moment below.
From left to right: Grant Walter, chief steward, Local 290; Zack Culver, business representative, LIUNA, Local 290; Michael Buonocore, executive director; Jack Roy, business manager, LIUNA, Local 290; Andy Chavira, council representative, Oregon AFSCME, Council 75; elyse Alexander, president, AFSCME Local 3135.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many people and which jobs does this affect at Home Forward?
Thirty-three people will receive pay increases. The positions benefiting from this change are maintenance generalists, office assistants, resident specialists, and program interns.
How much are the increases and how much will it cost the agency?
The increases range between $.31 and $4.00 an hour. The annual cost to the agency will be $76,000.
Will this mean you serve fewer people or provide less support?
No. We are able to absorb this in our administrative budget without any impact to our different programs.
Will you ask your contractors to adopt a $15 wage floor?
We work with a variety of non-profit and for-profit partners of all sizes. We understand and respect that they have their own business models. We hope what we’re doing starts a conversation in their organizations but we have no plans to ask them to follow this path.
Do you consider $15 a living wage?
There are different definitions of what a living wage means and the calculations depend on a number of factors, such as household size and the local cost of living. We aren’t trying to accomplish this, although we appreciate how important this is to people in the work force. We believe our wage floor of $15 an hour represents an important step forward. Also, promoting from within is a strong value of ours. We work hard to make sure our employees understand the paths they have for career advancement and higher wages at Home Forward.