Nutter ‘couldn’t wait’ on city contractor’s living wage increase

POWER Executive Director Bishop Dwayne D. Royster spoke after a press conference on Tuesday where Mayor Michael Nutter signed an executive order to mandate a living wage for city contractors and subcontractors. Credit: Charles Mostoller.
POWER Executive Director Bishop Dwayne D. Royster spoke after a press conference on Tuesday where Mayor Michael Nutter signed an executive order to mandate a living wage for city contractors and subcontractors. Credit: Charles Mostoller.

The living wage gained new life Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Mayor Michael Nutter signed an executive order that will raise the city’s minimum wage for city contractors and subcontractors starting in 2015.

The order calls for companies with city contracts to bump their workers pay from $10.88 per hour to $12 per hour starting on Jan, 1, 2015.

The order also calls for those contractors to pay the top-level subcontractors $10.88 per hour, starting in two weeks. And on Jan. 1, 2015, the subcontractor pay will also rise to the new minimum wage of $12 per hour.

“No person who works for the city or on a city contract should live in poverty either, and we must create ladders of opportunity,” Nutter said.

It was not immediately clear how many workers would see the increase in pay.

This order coincides with an amendment to the Philadelphia City Charter, spearheaded by minimum wage advocate City Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr., which would provide a permanent minimum wage as well as health benefits for subcontractors, including the much-maligned and outspoken airport workers. The airport workers currently work for an average of $7.85 per hour. This amendment is framed as a ballot question on the May 20 primary election.

Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER, called the order “commendable,” but “it is not a replacement for ballot question #1 which will appear on the May 20 ballot and would, in essence, make this executive order permanent.”

“We don’t want to be the poorest big city in the nation anymore,” Royster said.

There have been several calls for a statewide raise to the minimum wage to no avail. The state minimum wage is currently set at $7.25 an hour.

President Barack Obama has pushed for the federal government to set the minimum wage as opposed to the individual states, but his plan has yet to win support from Congress.

“While I still hope that there will be movement at the federal level on the minimum wage, I couldn’t wait,” Nutter said.

Dawn Rivera. Credit: Charles Mostoller.
Dawn Rivera. Credit: Charles Mostoller.

“I was very nervous about when and how much, but I’m just very relieved because it’s been a battle. I felt like I was going up ]hill for a long time, like I was never going to come on down the side of the hill, but it’s some light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dawn Rivera, airport worker.

Michael Burrell Jr. Credit: Charles Mostoller.
Michael Burrell Jr. Credit: Charles Mostoller.

“I’ve only been with 32BJ for, like, roughly two, three weeks now, so all of this has been on the roll, and it’s just, I know things don’t normally work this fast … but I know there is a lot more ground work for us to do.”

Michael Burrell Jr.

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