For about a year, Amazon has been paying all of its US employees (FT,PT and seasonal) at least $15 per hour. Target expects to follow suit by next year. In July, the US. House voted 231 – 199 to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025, though it's unlikely the Senate will agree. Northampton County requires contractors on county projects to pay a prevailing wage. It enacted a responsible contractor ordinance under which workers receive a living wage. But it has ignored its own employees.
The chart below shows that Northampton County's rank-and-file custodians receive an average of $13.04 per hour to clean our messes. Seventeen of 21 are paid less than $15 per hour. One of them earns just $10.74.
The County claims the actual wage is higher because it pays $9.62 per hour for health insurance for each employee. It adds the union contract approving these wages was overwhelmingly approved. "The issue of these folks being underpaid did not come up at the bargaining table," notes Deputy Administrator Becky Bartlett.
It should have.
Last year, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed legislation that would give employers a choice: "pay workers a living wage or pay for the
public assistance programs low-wage workers are forced to rely upon."
I would include public employers in that category.
Executive Lamont McClure is balancing his fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer against his sincere desire to pay employees what they are worth. Unfortunately, it is usually the employee who loses.
But so does the taxpayer.
The pittances paid might help balance a county budget and prevent a tax hike. but nationwide, these low wages actually cost taxpayers $152.8 billion per year, according to a 2015 study from the University of California, Berkeley Labor Center.
If people were paid more fairly, there would be less turnover and a happier workforce.