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Master's Professional Reports Abstract

Organizing for a Living Wage

The relatively recent formation of living wage campaigns in the United States has been positive to growing economic demands on American families. Successful campaigns via grassroots organizing not only provide wage relief and promote dignity and leadership development for low-income workers, but can address the issue of accountability of government subsidized businesses and public contractors and make the correlation to the need for a return investment with beneficiary private firms.

Effective grassroots organizing efforts are integral to the success of a living wage campaign, and alliances between organized labor and community groups can increase the potential for success. Two successful living wage campaigns resulted in the passage of local wage ordinances in Baltimore and Los Angeles. The strategies employed in these campaigns and the resulting impacts in the community are examined in this report.

There exist many economic arguments for and against the passage of local wage ordinances, similar to arguments for and against increases in the federal minimum wage. Given the recent formation and implementation of local living wage ordinances, the economic impact has not been fully examined. However, by utilizing community organizing as a means of citizen participation in the democratic process, low-income people have the capacity for a voice in the shaping of public policy and in obtaining desired policy outcomes.

The discussion of the living wage includes a moral perspective in addition to an economic one. Structural change and social empowerment are considered to be central to the Catholic Church's social teaching and community organizing provides a process for these to occur. For this reason, the Church supports living wage campaigns through the Campaign for Human Development's funding mechanism.

-- Author's foreword.


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