The youth development field is full of people who want to do good. We forgo better salaries, prestige, and decent hours in order to work in a field that strives to make the world a better place. This moral authority makes it even more important for our field to come down on the right side of the $15 minimum wage issue.
This is not easy. Our organizations hustle to make budgets balance. During the Great Recession, many organizations closed their doors, restructured or merged, and/or laid off staff to survive. It’s been tough. The prospect of increasing wages, our greatest cost, can be terrifying.
But it’s time to be bold. We need to increase wages for three reasons:
1. Our mission: If we are truly committed to making our communities better, we need to come down on the side of policies that make our kids more economically secure.
2. Our programs: It hurts to see talented staff walk away in search of economic security. When we lose talented people to the private sector, it hurts our field.
3. Our staff: The living wage in King County for a single person is $17.55 an hour. If we work hard to prepare kids for economic security, while guaranteeing that our own staff are not economically secure, we fail at our mission.
We can spend our energy fighting the increase, wringing our hands about paying for it, pulling our hair out… Or we can dedicate that energy to making higher wages for our staff a reality. We can figure out the right pace to phase in the increase, we can approach donors together, and we can ask our law makers for help. No, it is not easy. But it’s the right thing to do. And if we believe in our missions, we need to do the right thing.