Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Nutter to sign executive order extending minimum wage to city subcontractors

Mayor Nutter tomorrow will sign an executive order raising the city’s minimum-wage requirements for contractors working on public projects and extending them to subcontractors, according to an administration memo obtained by the Daily News.

Nutter to sign executive order extending minimum wage to city subcontractors

Philadelphia International Airport
Philadelphia International Airport MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

Mayor Nutter tomorrow will sign an executive order raising the city’s minimum-wage requirements for contractors working on public projects and extending them to subcontractors, according to an administration memo obtained by the Daily News.

“The Executive Order will raise the minimum wage required in City contracts and subcontracts, and implement annual adjustments for inflation,” the memo said. “The Executive Order will also direct contracting departments and other agencies to implement the requirements as to subcontractors, consistent with recent legislative actions.”

The move is a victory for a coalition of activists championing the cause of low-wage subcontracted airport workers and for Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr., who has proposed amending the Home Rule Charter to extend the wage rules to subcontractors.

Voters will decide whether to make that change in the May 20 primary. It’s so far unclear how the mayor’s new policy would interact with the proposed charter change. Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald yesterday declined to provide details about the order.

Laws establishing a “living wage” — a variable minimum wage determined by the cost of living in a given area — have been gaining steam across the country in recent years.

Many cities have passed living-wage ordinances for workers on municipal projects, and Santa Fe lawmakers even adopted a citywide law that includes private-sector workers. President Obama has made raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 a priority for his second term.

The Philadelphia law that established a living wage for contracted workers on municipal projects sets it at $10.88 per hour. The city Law Department last year said that, under current law, the requirement does not apply to subcontractors — an interpretation that advocates disagree with.

Nate Smith, a Philadelphia International Airport baggage handler employed by the subcontractor PrimeFlight, said a pay boost to the living wage would allow him to shop for his daughter at grocery stores like Acme rather than dollar stores and other cheap alternatives.

“It’s about time, honestly,” said Smith, 22, who makes $7.25 per hour. “I won’t be worried about being stuck in poverty” if the policy results in a raise for him, Smith said.

Gabe Morgan, Pennsylvania director for the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, said that although he’s “thrilled” about the executive order, the charter change is still necessary to make the policy permanent.

“Executive orders can change, and interpretations can change,” said Morgan, whose union has been advocating for the change.

If voters approve the ballot question, he said, “that’s the law of the land going forward, and it gives workers a clear way to make sure it gets enforced.”

 

About this blog
Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
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Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
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