After months of discussion, the Davis City Council made progress toward approving a living wage for some people employed by the city through contractors. The ordinance, which would only apply to contractors who meet a certain threshold of business from the city, is being examined on a scale that would pay between $10 and $14.21 per hour. Currently, these employees may be paid as low as the state minimum wage, $8 per hour. People employed directly by the city are already on a living wage pay scale.
The Aggie supports the council’s actions, and believes that workers should not be paid less simply because there is a firm standing between the city and the employee. Although the $14.21 level would be ideal, as this covers pay equal to the minimum hourly wage for city of Davis employees ($13.48) plus additional compensation for health insurance, this pay rate is not feasible with the city’s current budgetary situation.
The $11 per hour suggestion is a good compromise. The primary reason is that the city’s burden, the costs that the contractors will not absorb, is estimated from $60,279 to $67,476 per year, according to assistant city manager Paul Navazio. For the $13.50 and $14.21 wage levels, the cost could be as high as $186,558 and $229,042 per year, respectively. In the city’s current financial state, these compensation levels would prove to be untenable. The $11 per hour rate ensures that workers are earning a more reasonable wage, while allowing the city to continue to provide services that residents of Davis rely on.
However, the city council’s stance does beg the question as to why the city doesn’t directly employ these workers. This question has a reasonable answer. City of Davis Councilmember Sue Greenwald said, “A lot of the work that’s done is not full-time,” and cites winter storm cleanup as an example.
Setting a living wage of $11 per hour in these tough financial times is a wise choice. It allows the city to see how the program is benefiting the workers. If the council deems the program a success, there is nothing preventing the city council, with a better financial outlook, to increase the living wage to a higher level.