In a major victory for Ward 1 Alderman Michael Jones ’11, the Board of Aldermen passed Monday night a modified version of his proposal to expand the city’s living wage ordinance.
Since city officials criticized Jones’ original proposal for being too costly when it was first discussed last August, Jones compromised on several of its provisions to gain support on the Board of Aldermen, where it passed by a vote of 26 to 2. Described by Jones as his most ambitious legislative initiative during his term as alderman, the expanded ordinance would boost the minimum wage of city employees from $12 to $14.67 and extend that requirement to employees and subcontractors of companies with significant city contracts
“These are difficult financial times for the city, but they are also difficult financial times for those who serve the city,” Jones told the News Tuesday.
Jones’ effort to pass living wage reform hit major bumps when he introduced his original proposal in April 2010 with co-sponsors Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson and former Ward 9 Alderman Roland Lemar.
A day after a lengthy public hearing in August at which employers complained of the burdens the proposal places on them, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. called it fiscally unrealistic.
As part of an effort to lessen the financial impact of Jones’ original proposal, provisions extending the living wage requirement to seasonal workers and employees of nonprofits receiving significant city funds were scrapped along with a clause encouraging local and minority hiring. At a finance committee meeting April 13, Elizabeth Benton, DeStefano’s liaison to the Board of Aldermen, praised Jones for working with the mayor and other city officials to make the proposal more fiscally responsible.
Jones said he hopes his successors on the Board of Aldermen will build the political support necessary to enact the provisions he agreed to remove.
Under the legislation passed Monday, the city’s living wage will be pegged to the minimum hourly wage resulting in a salary that is 133% of the federally defined poverty line. The $14.67 figure was determined by setting a target of an annual salary of $30,000, which is 133% of the poverty line for a family of four, Jones said.
Because the vast majority of city employees already earn over $14.67 per hour, the main impact of the legislation will be on private companies with city contracts. The city has no way to analyze how the legislation might affect the city’s cost of contracting or how contractors would respond to the increased living wage, Benton said at the April meeting.
Living wage legislation in New Haven dates back to the work of Alderman Josh Civin ’96 LAW ’03 and Philip Voigt, who spearheaded the city’s first living wage law in 1997.