Editorial: A living wage is the right move

by Staci Matlock
Taos News
Posted 10/17/19

Business owners have to carry the financial risk of building a venture, as well as taking care of customers, finding and retaining employees, keeping up with ever-changing regulations and staying current with advancing technology.

Increasingly, customers want to know it isn't all just about the bottom line. They want to know businesses are taking care of the environment and employees.

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Editorial: A living wage is the right move

Posted

Running a business is tough.

It is often a seven day a week job.

Business owners have to carry the financial risk of building a venture, as well as taking care of customers, finding and retaining employees, keeping up with ever-changing regulations and staying current with advancing technology.

Increasingly, customers want to know it isn't all just about the bottom line. They want to know businesses are taking care of the environment and employees.

Companies that are certified B Corporations, like Taos Ski Valley Inc., are supposed to meet a set of standards for protecting the environment, helping their communities and treating their employees justly. Such corporate actions pay dividends, both in revenues and, increasingly, in reputations.

In a column this week, Taos Ski Valley CEO Dave Norden talks about the steps the ski resort has taken to meet these standards.

Taos Ski Valley has taken a number of steps to reduce waste, hire local companies and encourage vendors also to be more environmentally responsible.

Among the steps the ski resort has taken as part of its B Corporation standing is to analyze wages. Norden said the resort has decided to level the pay for people in the same jobs no matter who they are and to pay a living wage to entry-level workers. As Norden notes, the ski resort is "deeply committed to being part of the solution."

The living wage part is critical in a town as expensive as Taos has become. Many businesses in Taos already pay well above the minimum wage - they have to in order to attract workers.

But a living wage is another leap forward in helping employees and, ultimately, local communities where workers spend their money.

It is a tricky phrase. A living wage is not the same for every person or every place. It is basically the amount needed for a person to support him or herself and a family - to pay for food, utilities, a place to live, a vehicle and other basics.

MIT set out to define it region by region a few years ago, creating a living wage calculator for every state, county and some cities. It is updated every year.

As of January in Taos County the living wage for one adult with no children was $11.20 an hour, according to the MIT calculator. Add one child and the living wage more than doubles to $24.36 an hour while a single parent with two children must make $29.09 an hour, according to MIT. The amount required for a living wage decreases considerably when there are two wage earners in a family.

Norden does not specify in the column what Taos Ski Valley means when the company says it is paying a living wage. As a private corporation, it is not obligated to divulge salaries the way public agencies and governments are required to do. But if the resort is paying anywhere close to MIT's calculations - based on family size, not just an individual - then the company truly does deserve kudos and is setting an example for other businesses in the region.

It is a worthy endeavor when a company walks its talk and truly earns its B Corporation status.

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