The Fight for $15 movement has reinvigorated the push for every worker in the U.S. to be paid a living wage. In order to be more widely accepted, the movement requires a convincing argument for at least three claims: (1) Every worker deserves a living wage that provides for the worker’s flourishing beyond mere survival, (2) The living wage must be enough for the worker to provide for his or her family because the worker is not a mere individual, (3) This wage must be paid by the direct employer, at least to some extent, because the wage communicates value to the worker and is a sign of appreciation for the dignity and value of the work done by the employee. I will argue that the typical consequentialist and deontological ethical justifications offered for the living wage do not provide a sufficient basis for all three claims the movement wants to make. While some support may be found in these arguments for the first claim, none of the standard ethical approaches can ground the second and third claims. It is time for the movement to look elsewhere for ethical support in their call for paying workers a living wage. The movement should look to the concept of the family wage, a principle defended in Catholic social teaching and clearly articulated in Pope John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical, Laborem Exercens (On Human Work).
Hubbard, Kyle P.
"What is a Just Wage? The Fight for $15 and the Limits of Philosophical Ethics,"
Journal of Religion and Business Ethics: Vol. 5, Article 4.
Available at: https://via.library.depaul.edu/jrbe/vol5/iss1/4