ITHACA, N.Y. (6/30/15)--Housing affordability has remained an obstacle for many in Ithaca, N.Y., and the surrounding Tompkins County--a region that boasts two colleges that do nothing to abate rent pressures or slim down housing prices, even during a recession.
That’s why for more than two decades, Alternatives FCU, based out of Ithaca, has ensured that all employees earn enough to have the ability to live and work in the same locale.
“This is a community that really values a living wage,” Karl Graham, Alternatives FCU director of community relations, told News Now. “We look at a minimum level of pay from the perspective of the employee. What will allow our fellow citizens meet their basic needs?”
To determine what constitutes a living wage in the area, Alternatives conducts a biannual survey that takes into account several factors, including the cost of housing, transportation, and healthcare, in addition to the cost of monthly savings and recreation.
The survey began in 1994, when an employee approached the former coordinator of the Living Wage study, Leni Hochman, and confessed that she couldn’t make ends meet with what the credit union was paying her.
Hochman turned to the board and asked that the credit union implement a program through which the credit union would calculate the living wage respective to Tompkins County, and pay all employees no less than that number.
Ever since, the credit union board has approved step increases to base employee pay to align with what Alternatives has determined to be the living wage. Just last month, the board approved a 9.13% increase to a starting hourly wage to $13.77, enough for a single person working full time to live in the area.
Graham said that the community has become widely aware of the credit union’s Living Wage program, and over the years many in the local business community have latched on to the idea.
Now, a coalition of nearly 100 businesses in the area offer at least a living wage to their employees.
“We have continued to conduct the Living Wage study because we view it as an investment in our staff, our most valuable asset,” Graham said in a press release. “The Living Wage is also an investment in our community. When people are paid enough to adequately clothe, house and feed themselves, they do no need publically funded assistance to make ends meet.”