Philadelphia–The City Council Law and Government committee today passed a bill to allow a citywide vote on a charter amendment to extend the city’s 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Ordinance to subcontracted workers. The bill could be voted on by full council as soon as September 26.
Airport workers along with faith, community and labor leaders testified in support of the bill that would give voters a say in how the living wage ordinance is applied.
“We commend City Council for allowing the voters to have a say in applying living wage standards. The city of Philadelphia does not need more low-wage jobs that leave workers in poverty, needing public assistance to get by,” said Wayne MacManiman, Mid-Atlantic, District Director of 32BJ SEIU.“In a city that is currently making dire budget choices and is facing a daunting schools crisis, the last thing we need are more full-time, poverty jobs that contribute little to our tax base.”
Originally passed in 2005, the Philadelphia’s 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Standard requires by law that workers hired by the city or by companies with direct city contracts make 150% of federal minimum wage (or $10.88), receive paid sick time, and be offered health benefits if any other employees of the company receive them.
“My co-workers, and Philadelphia taxpayers, deserve better than this vicious cycle of poverty subsidized by public money. I am barely surviving. It’s time to send an SOS to City Council to support this bill,” said Onetha McKnight, a wheelchair attendant employed by PrimeFlight at the airport. “We need City Council to make sure that my employer PrimeFlight,and other subcontractors, pay a living wage. We want to be treated with respect and we need living wages so that we can afford to feed our families.”
Although the airport receives significant taxpayer support, nearly 2,000 low-wage workers at the airport are exempt from the minimum wage standard due to the city’s interpretation that the law does not apply to subcontractors.
“The airport and other contractors, who get so much money from the city, should offer good jobs that create economic opportunity for others and help raise wages in the area,” said Fight for Philly member Liz Lassiter. “They should not be more employers with nothing but poor, low-wage jobs that don’t help our communities.”
According to a report from the National Employment Law Project, Philadelphia airport workers earn an average of $7.85 an hour, without access to affordable health benefits or sick days. One out of five subcontracted airport workers reported going hungry last year.
“For the poorest big city in America, it is imperative that we create policies that prevent on-going poverty,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, Pastor of Living Water United Church of Christ & Executive Director of Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER).“By initiating this legislation, we are giving the people of Philadelphia a chance to have a say in ending poverty in their city.”
With 145,000 members in nine states and Washington, D.C., including 22,000 in Pennsylvania, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.