Living Wage?

A friend and fellow permie posted on his Facebook page that a local restaurant he knows is looking to hire someone to wash dishes. Quoting from his post:

DISHWASHERS NEED A LIVING WAGE AS MOM AND POP DINERS STRUGGLE TO MAKE ENDS MEET. … Would you take a part time position (@25hr/wk) in a lighthearted friendly atmosphere where you were treated as family for (what is now considered) a meager $10/hr?

Our own favorite micro-eatery … is scratching by in its second year, hammered by the “shut-down” and resultant lost revenues; the proprietors of the (now) three person operation struggle to find a fourth “family” member to sanitize the dishes and flatware.

… This truly IS more like an arranged adoption that I am trying to facilitate. It really is more of a lifestyle and community choice than a job… but there’s about $250 a week in it …

Most people responding to the post essentially said it’s not viable; that $10 an hour is not a living wage. While I fully acknowledge that it’s not possible to live a “typical” USAmerican (living alone; owning a car; etc. etc. etc.) lifestyle on $250 a week, I responded to his post with a somewhat different take on the matter:

Great question … and I will offer a viewpoint from my own experience.

$1,000 a month would be more money than I have consistently made for the whole 11 years I have lived in Florida. And 25 hours a week offers plenty of off time for studying, enjoying family, getting out in nature, etc.

Of course, living alone in a house or apartment would not be an option on such income. A person would need apartment-mates or housemates — which is how I have always managed. And actually, how i prefer to live even if i were a millionaire.

I would not try to own a car on such an income. (Then again I don’t prefer owning a car, even if i were a millionaire.) Instead I would live walking/biking/bus distance to work. Which is in fact what I have always done.

If the job comes with housing (such as a small room in a rooming house etc), that’d be a huge bonus!!

Im not actually looking for a job (have enough between housecleaning gigs, landscaping, speaking gigs, and the modest sales of my book; as well as having housemates to share house expenses). But, if I were looking for work, this would actually sound pretty appealing to me! The “family” aspect and small-business aspect would be a key part of the appeal for me.

Permaculture design principles offer us ways to reduce our need to earn; constructively disengage from consumer society; forge a sweeter greener saner path. This job might not be for everyone but I can see it being an appealing option in many ways.

I would add to my above thoughts, that other than my writing and speaking/consulting work, I have always tended to enjoy work that left my mind free. Pedicabbing, sewing, clearing brush, digging ponds, whatever.

I fully agree that ever-widening income disparities are creating deadly problems in this country and in the world. And, government and corporations need to be part of the solution — if we want to be able to call ourselves a civilized society.

That said, my comment was meant to illustrate that there’s a lot we individuals in the lower-income ranges can do to have a good quality of life even if we don’t earn much money. No need to wait on government or corporations to fix things — and in fact, we can’t afford to wait for them.