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Canton a ‘workplace of first choice’

haywoodCanton’s new budget includes a provision making it the first living wage certified government in Western North Carolina, but at the town board meeting June 23, aldermen took that measure one step further. 

The living wage for one person for fiscal year 2016-17 has been set at $12.50 per hour without employer-provided health insurance and $11 per hour with employer-provided health insurance by Just Economics WNC, an Asheville nonprofit that focuses on economic justice.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Alderman Dr. Ralph Hamlett during the meeting. “We’re promoting quality of life and this is a step in that direction. Again, this is the right thing to do.”

In Canton, that provision will apply to town employees working full‐time jobs, as well as regular part‐time employees who work 1,000 hours per year or less for the 2016-17 budget year. Canton also offers employees a generous health plan that covers premiums and deductibles at 100 percent. 

“It’s going to help us with employee recruitment and retention, which saves the organization [money] over the long haul, especially emergency services and police,” said Canton Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss.

However, according to the “Resolution endorsing the living wage for regular full and part-time employees” that was passed at the meeting, Canton is now obligated to “revisit the amount of the living wage each year during the annual budget process to ensure it remains consistent with inflation.”

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This makes Canton the only government in Haywood County with a living wage policy, and also the only one dedicated to maintaining it. 

“It sends a strong signal to the county that we’re serious about pay equity, and we’re serious about providing a workplace of first choice for individuals throughout the region,” Hendler-Voss said. 

When asked about the measure, Alderman Zeb Smathers said he was proud of Canton’s accomplishment. 

“It shows how appreciative we are of our employees, and also in this day and age how important it is to have a living wage — not a minimum wage, but a living wage,” he said. 

The resolution was offered by Board Member Carole Edwards, seconded by Hamlett, passed unanimously, and awaits Mayor Mike Ray’s signature. Ray was absent to attend the birth of a grandchild. The meeting was presided over by Mayor Pro-tem Gail Mull. 

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