A living wage is the salary required to live above the poverty line in a given area, said Bill Lester, an assistant professor at UNC specializing in economic development.
“Higher wages lead to a lower turnover rate, and people stay in their position for longer,” Lester said. “We’ve seen cities and local governments take on the issue of wage inequality but it hasn’t really swept through North Carolina in the same way. I would view this as a step in the right direction.”
The absence of a living wage drives employees away from the community, said CHCCS board member James Barrett.
“Given the cost it takes to live in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, a lack of a living wage forces community members to live further away and drive further to get here,” Barrett said. “If we pay a living wage then we would get employees who would be able to be a part of the community.”
Barrett said he is unaware of any objections from the board to implement the living wage.
Orange County commissioner Mark Dorosin said he thinks it’s important to implement a living wage for all workers in the county.
“Unless we take measures to address growing income disparities, we risk becoming a socio-economically homogenous community and losing the diversity that folks really value,” Dorosin said.
“It is critically important for public employers whose workers serve the interest of the community to compensate fairly.”