Livable wage exemptions debated

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Monday, July 29, 2013 - 5:22pm

It's a national issue: minimum wage not matching the cost of living. In Burlington, Vermont, lawmakers thought a livable wage ordinance would help alleviate the problem, but as Steph Machado reports, some employers subject to the ordinance have found a way around it.

Janice Santiago, Employment Advocate, Women Helping Battered Women, "Everyone living in Burlington...everyone anywhere should be getting a livable wage."

Steph Machado, "The Livable Wage Ordinance isn't new, it's been law since 2001. The problem is, it's not enforced, and the city council is trying to change that.

Max Tracy, (P) Burlington City Council, "That could mean having access to payroll records to see that they actually are paying the livable wage...having a workers rights hotline where a worker will be able to call and say hey I'm not actually getting the livable wage."

Steph Machado, "The law says all city workers and city contractors, like those who work at the airport, must be paid at these rates calculated based on the cost of goods and housing. The Skinny Pancake location in the airport which is right behind me inside security is exempt from having to pay their workers the livable wage. But that's not the whole story. The owner Benji Adler tells me their average wage is 12.82 an hour."

That's more than minimum wage but less than livable wage. Adler says the restaurant applied for, and was granted exemption, because it can't afford to pay more, but guess who else is exempt? TD Bank, a multi billion dollar company.

This confusion is why councilor Tracy wants to get rid of exemptions

Max Tracy, "I understand sort of the thinking as to why it was included before but I don't support it moving forward."

Janice Santiago works in Burlington every day helping people find jobs and housing and sees firsthand that the numbers just don't add up.

Janice Santiago, "We shouldn't have to in this day and age in this country or anywhere have to work more than one job to really make our ends meet."

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