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City employees one step closer to $15/hour

Posted: 5:34 PM, Apr 25, 2016
Updated: 2016-04-25 21:34:58Z

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley’s plan to raise the minimum wage for full-time city employees and contractors squeaked through the city’s Budget & Finance Committee Monday, and appears to be on its way to passage.

The ordinance passed by a vote of 5-2 with council members Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman abstaining.

“This package of legislation is designed to represent our values and to put our money where our values are,” Cranley told the council. “I believe that for people who do city work, even on a part-time basis, we need to set a standard.”

Cranley’s comments came on the heels of comments by representatives of several of the city’s labor unions, all of whom spoke out in support of the initiative.

The total impact of the ordinance is estimated to be about $1 million.

“The budget is a reflection of our values,” Cranley said.

Only eight full-time city employees will be affected. The raises will cost the city about $25,000 per year.

Much more expensive is the requirement within the ordinance for contractors doing city work, such as Rumpke, to pay their employees $15 per hour. That could cost the city as much as $690,000.

The ordinance also increases the minimum pay for part-time city employees to $10.10 per hour, which will cost the city about $488,000.

While some council members expressed concern over the expense of Cranley’s initiative, others felt it didn’t go far enough.

Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld said he wished the ordinance would increase the minimum pay for all workers, but gave it his vote because it was a move in the right direction.

“There’s dignity in full-time work, and there’s absolutely dignity in part-time work,” Sittenfeld said.

Voting against the ordinance were Republican Amy Murray and Charterite Kevin Flynn. Citing concerns about the city’s budget deficit, Murray warned against the consequences of enacting the ordinance, which she called “feel-good legislation.”

“I think it’s pretty clear the city can’t afford it right now,” Murray argued.

Murray predicted that the increased cost of labor could compound the effects of the city’s efforts to balance its budget, as city department budgets are likely to be affected.

Republican Charlie Winburn, the chairman of the budget committee, noted that he could find a way to support the ordinance if it had a phased approach to pay increases.

Independent Chris Smitherman also argued for a more gradual approach, and said his vote at Wednesday’s council meeting will be determined by whether any amendments are made to the ordinance before final passage.

“If council brings it the way we have it, it’s going to be very difficult for me to support,” Smitherman said.