Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Considers Employees' Pay Raise Council Panel to Study Impact

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Considers Employees' Pay Raise Council Panel to Study Impact

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Galnor and David DeCamp , Times-Union staff writers

For almost a year, advocates of raising the minimum wage for Jacksonville city employees and companies that do business with City Hall have struggled to put together support for a City Council bill.

They now have a sponsor in Councilwoman Pat Lockett-Felder, a strong union backer.

No one else on the council has yet pledged support, but council President Jerry Holland said he is appointing a committee to look at the economic impacts of a change and examine how the idea has worked in other cities.

Mayor John Delaney has already declared he'll veto the bill if it's passed. Ten votes from the 19-member council are needed to pass a bill and 14 are needed to override a veto.

Discussion of the bill will open a debate here that's been successfully waged in 80 cities. A recent study found that such bills reduce poverty, but also cause job cuts.

In Jacksonville, the bill, which has been promoted by a coalition of labor and civil rights groups, would raise the city's minimum hourly pay to $9.19 an hour with full benefits -- or $10.19 without benefits -- from $5.15. It would also touch off a fight among businesses and labor groups.

"If other cities can do it, Jacksonville can do it and it's high time that we take care of the people that elected us," Lockett-Felder said.

About a third of the city's full-time employees -- 2,117 of about 6,300 -- would see a raise if the proposal passes, said Sharon Ashton, Delaney's press secretary. Boosting the wages would cost the city about $4 million annually, Ashton said.

"There's just no way in heck I'll ever vote for this," Councilwoman Faye Rustin said, adding the requirement could hurt small businesses that have contracts with the city.

Gainesville, Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County are among the Florida governments that have enacted higher minimum wage laws, according to the Employment Policies Institute, a Washington-based research group.

Studies have given mixed results. A recent study for the institute, which is critical of living wage laws, found that a $10. …

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