Aldermen want to raise ‘living wage’

Ward 1 Alderman Mike Jones ’11 and two other aldermen want to raise the wages for some employees working with the city.

They will submit a proposal to the Board of Aldermen today that would raise the “living wage” — the minimum salary, based on economic indices, for an average household to meet everyday costs — to at least $13 per hour from $12. The proposal, which is co-signed by Roland Lemar of Ward 9 and Darnell Goldson of Ward 30, would force City Hall subsidiaries such as the Board of Education and employers who receive at least $100,000 from City Hall to pay their subcontracted employees the living wage. City Hall would also be required to pay all of its employees — including temporary or seasonal workers — at least the living wage.

“We need to ensure our workers a competitive living wage so that they can live in our city,” Lemar said.

The city already has a biennial requirement to adjust its living wage based on the Northeast region’s consumer price index. According to the proposal, the living wage would be pegged to a different cost-of-living index, one set by the Federal Social Security Administration. It would also ensure that employees receiving the living wage be paid during their sick days and receive health benefits. It would also exempt non-profits and businesses with fewer than 25 employees.

The city’s controller, Mark Pietrosimone, will also introduce his own proposal to the board today that would raise the living wage to $12.50 per hour as part of the biennial city requirement and leave the living wage pegged to the consumer price index. The living wage increase would go into effect July 1 and extend through June 30, 2012, according to his proposal. Pietrosimone wrote in a report accompanying the proposal that the increase will come at no cost to city taxpayers.

Even though Lemar said he does not think that the aldermanic living wage proposal will increase taxes, he said that it needs to pass even if it comes at the expense of other city departments in the fiscal 2011-’12 budget. Aldermanic finance committee chair and Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah said while he favors increasing the living wage, he prioritizes balancing the budget.

The aldermanic proposal is similar to ones proposed by former Ward 1 Aldermen Ben Healey ’04 SOM ’11 and Nick Shalek ’05. Even though Board of Aldermen President Carl Goldfield said the board did not pass Shalek’s proposal because “the economy wasn’t bad and everyone was working,” Lemar said he is confident that aldermen will push his current proposal through.

Since 1994, 130 municipalities across the nation have passed living wage laws, according to the proposal. Since 1997, the city has required employers who have contracts with city departments to pay a living wage to their subcontracted employees.

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