Business leaders gathered at the Vermont State House Wednesday, Jan. 28, to call for the creation of more “livable jobs” in the state–employment that allows Vermonters working full time to pay their bills without relying on public assistance.
Released every two years in January by the Vermont Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office, the “Basic Needs Budgets and the Livable Wage” report puts the average “livable wage” at $13 per hour for a full-time person contributing half the income in a two-person household.
Members of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility were joined by the staff of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund at the Jan. 28 press conference to call on the Legislature to see economic development through the lens of creating and retaining jobs that pay good wages and offer good benefits.
“Now that the economy is steadily improving, we need wages and salaries to reflect what it actually costs to live in Vermont,” said Ellen Kahler, the executive director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. “If you work 40 hours you should be able to meet your basic needs without also relying on public assistance. For far too many in our state, this is not the case. Wages and salaries at the lower income levels have not kept pace with the cost of basic necessities such as housing, food, energy, and transportation costs.”
“Providing quality design and construction services also means providing quality jobs, including good wages, health and dental insurance, personal time to be used as an employee feels the need, vacation time and some flexibility in work schedules,” said Russ Bennett, the owner of NorthLand Design & Construction in Waitsfield and a member of VBSR’s board of directors. “Even our entry level students are paid above the livable wage threshold. This is the definition of a livable job.”
Jen Kimmich, co-owner of The Alchemist in Waterbury, added: “When we operated our brew pub for eight years, we used the livable wage report to determine the pay rate of our lowest paid hourly employees. We experienced high levels of productivity and commitment in positions that typically have high turnover rates. It was a smart business decision, but it was also just the right thing to do. It is our responsibility as business leaders and elected representatives to work together towards improving the lives of the thousands of working Vermonters who are living in poverty.”
“The sustainability of Vermont businesses must carry through to the sustainability of the lives of their employees,” said Liz Holtz, the founder and CEO of Liz Lovely in Waitsfield. “A critical component of this is paying a livable wage. This is the foundation of how we grow at Liz Lovely.”
“For the past seven years, we have used the basic needs budget as a key resource for determining wage goals, and this year we are proud to say that over 98 percent of our employees earn at least the Vermont livable wage,” said Kari Bradley, the general manager at the Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier. “We hope that with increased awareness more businesses will set similar goals for fair and sustainable compensation.”
For more information visit www.vbsr.org or www.vsjf.org.