by Sheila Payne, Alachua County Labor Coalition
Now is the time to celebrate with City of Gainesville and Alachua County employees on the progress we have all made in advancing the wage scale for all workers in Alachua County.
And of course we need to keep forging ahead. We cannot rest till all of the wages of the lowest paid employees in Alachua County are indexed to at least 125 percent above the Federal Poverty Level ($14.60/hour in today’s dollars).
After months of Alachua County Labor Coalition (ACLC) members having follow-up meetings with City Commissioners and staff, the City of Gainesville Commissioners voted to set aside $300,000 in the 2017 budget for a Living Wage increase for city workers.
ACLC lobbied for $12.25/hour, and the details will be worked out on Sept. 22 at a special policy meeting to overhaul the present City of Gainesville ‘Living Wage’ Ordinance (LWO) wording and to also figure out how the $300,000 will be distributed to the lowest paid workers.
The City of Gainesville ‘Living Wage’ is now set at the official poverty rate for Alachua County of $11.68/hour, and 90 percent of the contract workforce are exempt from the living wage rate through multiple loopholes in the present ordinance.
We will be lobbying for this first-step 5 percent wage increase to include part-time, temporary and contract workers. It will be negotiated with the workers and their unions, if they are represented. This set aside amount will also deal with wage compression. We will be lobbying for ordinance language that will automatically increase the low wage workers pay 5 percent/year minimum until the workers reach the Living Wage of $14.60/hour plus automatic cost of living raises.
We will also be pushing for all temporary workers to be hired through the City of Gainesville HR department rather than temp force agencies so that they will automatically be included in the LWO. Please join us during these policy meetings in September.
Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos and Mayor Poe pushed the Living Wage issue during the budget hearings and thanks to Commissioners Budd, Carter, Goston, and Warren for speaking out in support of and voting to support this wage increase for all city workers.
There was a general compassionate consensus that full-time city workers should be able to support their families with dignity and not have to work multiple jobs to do so.
The Alachua County Commission has also made solid strides in bringing their workforce and contractors up to a living wage. In August, Alachua County Commissioners discussed 2017 wage rates. While the ACLC had requested an increase to at least $12.25, staff came back with a proposed $12.50, and Commissioner Ken Cornell pushed to get $13.
It was gratifying to hear a guest who came to the Medicare candidate forum we held this week tell me that he has a friend who has worked at UF for years as a janitor. His friend never thought he would ever make $12/hour, and this wage increase has made a huge difference in his family’s life.