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Philadelphia Lawmakers Plan to Remove A ‘Living Wage’ Exemption

(A security line at Philadelphia International Airport.  File photo from CBS3)

(A security line at Philadelphia International Airport. File photo from CBS3)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Tales of woe from workers living below the poverty line — despite holding down full-time jobs at Philadelphia International Airport — prompted a City Council committee today to tweak the city’s “living wages” law.

Tara Russell has worked for four years at the airport, assisting travelers who use wheelchairs.   She told City Council’s Commerce and Economic Development Committee that she earns just $7.00 an hour because she is expected to earn tips.

But the tips, she said, rarely come.

“At the end of the month, I have nothing left (after rent and food), and I haven’t even paid the bills.  So how do I survive?” she asked the committee rhetorically.

The city’s living wages law requires companies that have contracts with the city to pay workers 1½ times the minimum wage, plus paid sick leave.   Russell’s employer, though, is exempt because it is a small concessionaire, with fewer than 25 workers.

So, the committee has voted to remove the exemption and put all city concessionaires — no matter how small — under the requirements.

“A number of groups that are focused on the (planned) expansion of the airport want to make sure it benefits as many people as possible,” the measure’s sponsor, Councilman Wilson Goode, told KYW Newsradio.

The removal of the exemption now goes to the full City Council for a vote.

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