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Underclass of cheap nonprofit labor must end

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Marjorie Storch

To the editor,

I always enjoy your articles in Philanthropy Journal. Keep it up.

You mentioned that, “Many nonprofits operate as if they expected their staff to take a vow of poverty.” [“Nonprofit boards need to take charge“, 12.29.98]

I share the concern that so many persons work full time for poverty wages.

Many hardworking employees (nonprofit and for-profit) just can’t make ends meet without a second job or food subsidies.

I believe full-time workers ought to earn a sustainable wage that supports a basic standard of living.

Caregivers at the nonprofit organization where I work as director of development have the toughest job and earn the least.

Most board members and executives who determine salary ranges based on “best practices” and “market competition” have never had to live on minimum wages or $10 hour.

The current practice maintains an underclass of cheap labor.

That may seem like a good system for those financially better off, but in reality it adds to our community-wide problems of stress, crime, foreclosures, poor health, less-involved parents and less-successful students.

I’d like to see nonprofits take the lead and start to address this problem. A start might be a five year plan: Pay every fulltime employee a minimum of $10 per hour, and increase wages by $2 hour every year until a sustainable salary is achieved.

For employees making more than $10 per hour, but below the sustainable wage, remove the maximum salary cap.

Yes, this would require changes in how resources are spent.

But there is enough to go around if we think creatively and truly want the best for the common good.

The benefits of wide-spread economic security would be immeasurable.

— Marjorie Storch

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