Living wage

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The living wage entails the idea that no wage-earning laborer should ever be paid lower wages than those that would keep him and his family above poverty level. It was an operating principle of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Although most aspects of the living-wage program were repealed in 1964, the minimum wage lives on as a vestige of it.

In urging the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level. I mean the wages of a decent living."[1]


The concept of a living wage is a product of the Social gospel.[2] After reading Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum, the reverend John A. Ryan a was so moved by what he read that he wrote his Ph.D dissertation about minimum wage, and it was published in 1906 as The Living Wage.


Hearing calls for a living wage, a pizza shop out in California attempted to put in place a living wage, without the forceful arm of government. In order to be able to balance costs, the owner had to charge $30 for pizzas, at which point sales sharply declined.[3] The experiment has not gone so well. The owner has stated that "I'm terrified of going out of business after 18 years".


  1. Franklin Roosevelt's Statement on the National Industrial Recovery Act
  2. (2015) Pluralism Comes of Age: American Religious Culture in the Twentieth Century. New York: Routledge, 127. ISBN 978-0765601513. 
  3. California: $15 Minimum Wage, $30 Per Pizza, Massive Fail,

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