Alachua County Commissioners unanimously passed a pay raise ordinance for county contracted workers Tuesday evening.
The minimum wage ordinance, proposed by the Alachua County Labor Coalition and pushed by commissioner Ken Cornell and budget director Tommy Crosby, was first talked about last August.
The original $12 raise would only have applied to waste management, grounds maintenance, and janitorial service contracts in Alachua County, with over 50 exemptions including seasonal workers, disability workers, etc. However, the commissioners could not agree on what all those exemptions would be or how the ordinance would apply to non-profit organizations.
Residents, staff and local labor activists voiced their thoughts at the public hearing. The commissioners had come to a decision last month, but overturned it and postponed their decision until the exemptions were clearly outlined.
One county resident, Collie Brown, suggested different exceptions be made, like allowing inmates to make the $12 wage and instead of keeping it, being allowed to send it to their former dependents.
“I think that it’s high time that we did this,” Brown said. “People who are working 40, 50, 60, however many hours a week, bustin’ their behinds deserve the dignity of extracting survival from that effort.”
But not everyone thought this was such a clear-cut situation—especially considering what it could mean for future jobs in different markets.
“My personal feeling is I don’t know that we should be going into the private sector a whole lot if it’s a job that the county could be doing […],” said Comissioner Lee Pinkoson.
As of now, inmates, students enrolled in degree programs, anyone in a written job-training program, and workers with disabilities are exempt from this pay raise.
“Living wage is where we’re going, we’re taking steps,” said Commissioner Cornell. “What I would say is this board is serious about addressing income inequality, income disparity, and fast tightening the local jobs in the economy and hopefully from this day forward discontinue the use of taxpayer funds to subsidize corporations that pay low wages.”
The new ordinance will go into effect as soon as contracts are revised. The corporations behind these contracts will have to report back to the board quarterly in order to influence a policy change.
“The ordinance that passed has an implementation plan,” Crosby said. “In other words, tomorrow when you wake up all the services don’t end of the people making less than that. We have contracts in place, we’re working with things as they get renewed as we go back out for negotiations. As those current plans end, we will require this of them.”