New Report Recommends Higher Living Wage in Tompkins County
TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. (WENY) -- On Wednesday, the Alternatives Federal Credit Union and the Tompkins County Workers' Center released its latest annual living wage report. The minimum wage is the lowest wage employers can legally pay their employees and according to Workers' advocates, a living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs.
Workers advocates said based on their findings, the 2024 living wage should be $18.45 in Tompkins County. In New York State outside of the City, Long Island, and Westchester, the minimum wage is $14.20.
"The living wage is a higher number and it's based on a cost of living calculation. It's based on [several] items that people need to live, including housing, healthcare, transportation, food, and other things," said Research Professor at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations and Director of the Ithaca Co-Lab, Ian Greer.
Greer said they had a living wage calculation of $16.61, which is a substantial jump. He said, "It reflects a big increase in the cost of housing."
Greer said part of the research of coming up with a living wage number is to show who is affected by a big minimum wage increase.
"If you are a woman or a person of color, you are way more likely to make less than a living wage than if you're a man or a white person. So, [almost] 59% of Black wage earners make less than the living wage number. For [white] men about a third make less than the living wage [and] for women, it's about 41%," said Greer.
Greer said there are about 18,000 people in Tompkins County who make less than a living wage. Edward 'Eddie' Moran said crunching the numbers on an increased living wage is monumental to the area. He said he wants people to know this is a living wage, not necessarily a thriving wage.
"I am a little over five years now since I've last had my income based on a minimum wage job. [I'm] slowly recovering," said Moran, who works as a senior tech support specialist at Alternatives Federal Credit Union.
Moran said at one point he was working two full-time jobs at once, and for a year he worked two full-time jobs and a part-time job. He said from his experience, the biggest change from going from minimum wage to a living wage was he could at least pay his bills.
"I can afford enough to live on, so now if I wanted to do something over the weekend to take care of myself, I could. I could afford to get the food I wanted, instead of just the food I [had] access to at the moment, which was often food pantries. [It's] what I lived off for a long time, but it's certainly different [and nice] when you can look in your fridge and go 'that's what I want to eat today'," said Moran.
Moran said he's happy to say he works one full-time job and has a side business he occasionally works for.
"It's not necessarily something that I'm like 'Oh my God, I have to get this bill paid.' It's like I want to buy something nice for myself, so let me sell a few things so I can make a couple extra bucks, so I have the money so I don't have to owe anything," said Moran.