JACKSON, Mich. — Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies is proposing a raise to minimum wage in the city, but it wouldn't apply to everyone.
"The living wage ordinance sets a standard for city employees, government contractors and companies receiving public subsidies to ensure that public spending creates good family-supporting jobs,” Dobies said
Dobies wants to raise the minimum wage to $15.68 per hour for employers who do not provide healthcare to their employees and $13.32 an hour for those who do. Those numbers are based off the Massachusetts Institute of Technology model for a living wage for two working adults with one child in the Jackson Metropolitan Statistical Area.
“Anything that we contract out for, like grass cutting or striping of asphalt to the work that we do putting resources into some of the nonprofit agencies,” Dobies said. “There’s some exemptions such as pass-through grants where we’re just giving resources to like a Community Action Agency to pass on to recipients. Most all of our contracts, anything of a certain threshold, we bid out anyways, so this ordinance would establish a $10,000 threshold in a 12-month period to be able to comply with this ordinance.”
In 2015, the state banned local minimum wage increases that outpace the statewide minimum wage. So, how is it possible for Dobies to carve out this type of ordinance?
“What they did was exempted municipalities from regulating the voluntary agreements within their own expenditures,” Dobies said. “That created a carve out to allow us to have a policy like this settle at a living wage for the city based on our contracts and our grants, and hopefully be able to have a positive impact on wages in the private sector and not-for-profit sector as well, because of the competition.”
Dobies said the proposed difference in pay for those that provide healthcare and those that do not is based on who is “doing the right thing.”
“There’s a cost to providing health care and we can understand that there’s a cost to the employee of having to go out on the market and buy health care covers themselves,” Dobies said. “So, for those employers that are doing the right thing, I think that it makes sense to be able to further encourage them to give their employees’ health care as well.”
This ordinance would not cover a business within the city limits that doesn't have any contracts with the city and doesn't receive financial support from the city.
But, Dobies says it would set a standard.
“We are talking about we can do to address some of the poverty that we face and how we can confront that with compassionate policy and how we can kind of lead by example in talking about wage, and talking about the fact that the federal minimum wage and the state minimum wage hasn’t caught up and kept up with the cost of living,” Dobies said.
He says there’s broad support for changes at the state and federal levels to somewhere around $15 an hour.
“With the pre-emption law in place, we can’t have those broad sweeping policies, but we can implement a policy like this, to correct that wage gap and start to hopefully engage through competition the rest of the market to trend towards competitive wages and at least a living wage.”
He believes if this ordinance were to pass it could create a domino effect.
“That’s the power of the purchasing power of government,” Dobies said. “We've got a $25 million general fund and even more enterprise funds here at the city so we can leverage that purchasing power to affect the market. Hopefully, it does so in a positive way, in other private sectors, businesses and other nonprofit agencies to lift those wages as well.”
The proposed Living Wage Ordinance will go before City Council at its next meeting on Tuesday for a first reading.
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