In early April I had the pleasure of presenting on a Living Wage panel at Tamarack’s Cities Reducing Poverty Summit hosted this year in Hamilton, Ontario.
The Prosperity Roundtable from Chatham-Kent, Ontario was participating to talk about the unique challenges that may be experienced in rural communities when engaging in Living Wage conversations. Framing the conversation in a way that leads to successful outcomes was incredibly important for our organizing committee; in our community that meant using our local Living Wage number as an opportunity to dialogue about the important policy considerations that can be used to help build a more prosperous community.
We know in our community that the stumbling blocks for our model family (2 parents, 2 children, 1 school-aged and 1 in full-time daycare) are: access to alternative, licensed childcare; finding affordable and practical housing; and transportation. Our community is geographically large and predominantly rural so each of these issues are nuanced and challenging to solve, but the Living Wage campaign has allowed us to speak openly and transparently with community leaders about these topics.
It’s very important that we engage businesses in these conversations and encourage them to consider Living Wage as an opportunity to ensure their own workforce has the potential to live an inclusive life in the community that they call home. We have signed up fourteen businesses and are on track to sign up over twenty businesses in our first year. It is exciting work and fulfilling work!
Do remember and know however, that there’s so much more to a Living Wage than simply a number shared with a community; it’s a springboard for important and necessary community conversations. I know, especially in rural communities, there’s fear and hesitancy around the Living Wage conversation but trust that organizations and individuals are more open to the conversation than you realize. Look for allies, build a roster of community leaders who understand the intrinsic business value of treating their employees well and hit the ground running! I’m sure you will be met with success!
By: Kate do Forno
Project Coordinator, Prosperity Roundtable Chatham-Kent