A current student in United Way’s Public Policy Institute 2017 class helped the City of Vancouver achieve an important milestone today. This morning, the City of Vancouver was officially recognized as a Living Wage Employer. Deanna Ogle is the Campaign Organizer for the Living Wage for Families Campaign. The Living Wage for Families Campaign encourages employers to pay a living wage as well as advocates for government policies that would help families make ends meet. It is hosted by First Call: BC Child & Youth Advocacy Coalition, funded in part by United Way. “The mentorship provided through the Public Policy Institute has supported me as I navigate the route from policy proposal to policy implementation. Additionally, the connections that I have made with other non-profits leaders across sectors has been invaluable to my work on the living wage” says Deanna Ogle, Campaign Organizer with the Living Wage for Families Campaign. “The Public Policy Institute will help me increase my impact and the impact of the Living Wage for Families Campaign as we continue to advocate for policies that would help families make ends meet.” The United Way Public Policy Institute is a professional development opportunity for non-profit leaders. There are monthly two-day training courses run over the course of six months. The objective of the Public Policy Institute is to help not-for-profits better understand and influence the public policy process. Deanna did just that. Vancity, Premier Sponsor of United Way Public Policy Institute, is also a Living Wage Employer. By supporting the Public Policy Institute, Vancity is helping to equip the leaders, movers and shakers of the not-for-profit sector with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to drive public policy change. The result is strong, vibrant and healthy communities – something United Way and Vancity are both passionate about creating.
Why a living wage is so important
It used to be that the best way to get out of poverty was to get a job, stay out of debt and save and plan for your and your children’s future. But the math isn’t working anymore here in Metro Vancouver. Working poverty is an ever increasing and growing concern. A report published last fall by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition and United Way shows that over 100,000 people in our communities are working but living below the poverty line. Almost two-thirds of the working poor (61%) are between the ages of 30 and 54. Almost half (42%) have dependent children and single parents are the most likely to experience working poverty. Poverty is a major determinant of both physical and mental health. Growing up poor is linked to low school achievement and lower literacy rates. Lower literacy rates mean people lack the tools and confidence they need to lead healthier, more productive and prosperous lives. Lower literacy is also linked with poorer health and with getting into trouble with the law. Poverty is robbing our next generation of their potential. When children go to school hungry or poorly nourished, their energy levels, memory, problem-solving skills, creativity and behaviour are all negatively impacted.
What is a living wage
One tactic to help lift families out of poverty and to break the cycle of poverty is to pay workers a living wage. A living wage is the hourly wage a family needs to earn to cover basic expenses such as food, clothing, shelter, transportation and child care. In Metro Vancouver, the current living wage is $20.62 an hour. That’s almost double the existing minimum wage even taking into account the projected minimum wage increase. We applaud the City of Vancouver for taking a step in the right direction for the working poor and becoming a certified living wage employer. The City of Vancouver joins 81 other Living Wage Employers across B.C. from various business sectors including non-profits, unions, financial institutions and food service. United Way has been a proud Living Wage Employer since 2011. Over the years, the City of Vancouver has been a partner with United Way helping develop programs and services to address social issues. Employees of the City of Vancouver have also generously supported United Way having raised more than $3.8 million over the past couple of decades to help children, families and seniors in need. In a year, United Way of the Lower Mainland helps 400,000 people in our communities. As a country, we pride ourselves on being compassionate and caring and generous. At United Way, we strive to make the Lower Mainland a place where everyone can access opportunity and reach their full potential, no matter where they live or where they’re from. Our vision is a healthy, caring, inclusive community for all. Together, we can build a stronger city and region.