Debating Wages For Cincinnati's Part-Time Workers

Feb 28, 2017

At least three Cincinnati Council members want to revisit the city's living wage ordinance to increase the hourly pay rate for part-time city employees to at least $15 per hour.

The issue was raised Monday during a budget and finance committee meeting.  The members were being asked to approve a labor agreement for a group of part-time, seasonal workers.  

They work for the public services department, parking facilities and the recreation department.

Right now that group has about 40 workers, but the number increases to around 100 people during the summer months.  They can work no more than 1,560 hours per year.

The new labor agreement provides four percent raises each of the next three years, bringing the pay range to between $10.10 and $12.74 an hour.

Council members Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young suggested the rate should be $15 an hour based on a living wage ordinance passed in April 2016.

That measure did increase the rate to $15 an hour for full-time city workers, but it was $10.10 per hour for part-time workers.  

Seelbach wanted to amend the labor agreement before the committee to increase the pay rate to $15 an hour.  The city law department is reviewing that issue.

"A part-time worker has the exact same worries and expenses and life that someone as someone who's working full-time," Seelbach said. "I actually think that it should be a true $15 minimum for any city employee regardless of how many hours they work."

Young said these workers are on the lowest end of the city's pay scale.

"But we're willing to pay other people, but we don't want to pay them, that just doesn't make any sense to me" Young said. "I would really like for us to find a way to bring everybody up to $15 an hour."

City officials did investigate bringing part-time employees up to $15 an hour in April 2016.  That report found it would cost the city $3.7 million to make that adjustment.  The increase the council did approve from $8 to $10.10 an hour was projected to cost the city $488,000.

There could also be additional costs to the city if the measure required businesses with city contracts to pay a minimum of $15 an hour.  One of those firms could be Rumpke, which has the city's recycling collection contract.

The suggestion to increase part-time wages comes as the city is facing a $25.1 million general fund deficit for the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Council member Amy Murray called the proposal irresponsible.

"But I feel like once again we are cutting the knees off the administration when they've already collectively bargained with these units and come to a decision that everyone agrees with," Murray said. "And council is saying we want to give more."

Seelbach, Simpson and Young would need at least two other votes to increase the part-time wage rate.  Right now that appears unlikely.

The full council is expected to vote on the labor agreement for the part-time, seasonal workers Wednesday.  There could be more discussion concerning the issue then along with Seelbach's attempt to amend it to bring the minimum rate to $15 an hour.