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Dobies proposes $15+ living wage ordinance for City employees

The mayor implied the decline of the minimum wage has contributed to income inequality and poverty.
City of Jackson sign
City of Jackson sign(City of Jackson)
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 9:56 AM EDT
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JACKSON, Mich. (WILX) - Thursday Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies introduced a new Living Wage Ordinance that would set a standard wage of $15.38 per hour for city employees, government contractors, and companies receiving public subsidies, to ensure that public spending creates good family-supporting jobs.

Dobies said the move seeks to utilize city funds to tackle the poverty many face in the city, and comes after crushing efforts to criminalize poverty through an anti-panhandling ordinance.

“Criminalizing poverty is not a solution. As a city, we will continue to confront the poverty we face with bold, proven policy solutions,” said Mayor Dobies. “When we expend public dollars, assign contracts, or award grants we should do so with wages that do not normalize or exacerbate the poverty that we see here.”

In a memo to the City Council, Dobies implied that the decline of the minimum wage, compared to the cost of living, has contributed to the increase of income inequality and poverty over the past three decades.

Nearly 1 in 3 now live under the federal poverty level in the City of Jackson, and even more are asset limited, and income constrained per the most recent United Way Financial Hardship Study.

“We’ve seen the pandemic take a toll on working people in our city, many of whom were already struggling to get by. This compassionate policy is one tool that we can use to get people back on their feet and build financial stability,” said Ken toll, CEO of the United Way of Jackson County. “In passing this policy, the City can also raise the standards for what other private sector businesses and nonprofits pay their employees through competition and market forces.”

The ordinance would set an original $15.68/hr. living wage rate for any contractor, vendor, or grantee of city funds. The rate is drawn from a MIT model for the living wage of two working adults with one child in the Jackson Metropolitan Statistical Area. The ordinance also accommodates a lower rate of $13.32/hr. for employers that supply healthcare coverage to employees.

Under the proposal, both rates would adjust annually by percentages equivalent to any increases in the federal poverty rate.

“Jackson deserves a living wage to raise people’s standard of living and restore economic power to working people,” said Mayor Dobies. “As we continue to expend transformational city resources, particularly with the receipt of $32 million dollars in American Rescue Plan funds, we must do so in a way that does not continue a race to the bottom in wages. This is a responsible way to invest these resources - in the people.”

Since the early 1990s, over 120 cities and counties across the country have adopted living-wage ordinances. More than 15 similar policies exist across the state in cities such as Ann Arbor, Ferndale, Lansing, Monroe, Ypsilanti, Southgate and in counties including Ingham, Macomb and Washtenaw. The ordinances vary, but they make an effort to pay employees a wage that would allow them to live above the federal poverty level, with those rates adjusted annually.

The proposed ordinance is available for review here. Dobies has said he plans to introduce the policy at the City Council meeting on Sept. 28.

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