By Pat Loeb and Alexandria Hoff
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Council has expanded the list of employers who must provide better wages for service workers, if they receive any kind of subsidy from the city. The list now includes hospitals, universities, stadiums and the airport.
Cheers went up when council passed the bill that will mean higher wages for security guards, janitors and others, at least eventually. It doesn’t apply retroactively, but sponsor Helen Gym believes it will help thousands of workers in the future.
The existing prevailing wage law only applied to service workers inside of large residential and commercial buildings.
“Those at the baseline of our workforce, which are folks who are making between $9 and $11 an hour are going to be bumped up closer to the living wage and what should be an ever-increasing wage standard for our city residents,” Councilwoman Gym said.
“If I came to the city routinely for tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars, am I going to get up in that room and say, ‘no, I want to keep all the security officers poor,” Gabe Morgan of the Service Workers Union said. “The trade here is that if you want public money we need to guarantee that you are going to create good jobs.”
While Penn and Jefferson did not provide comment, Temple issued this statement:
“Wages for Temple University service employees are determined through collective bargaining agreements. In regard to the employees of university vendors, these companies determine the salaries of their own employees. We are reviewing the impact of the legislation and will continue to follow legal requirements and provide appropriate compensation and benefits to our employees.”
Nitiesha Oglesby has provided security for a city-subsidized University for 14 years. She says it’s time that similar institutions pay their workers fairly considering the tax breaks they have been given.
“There should have never been a blind eye to that and if you turned your eye to it now you have to face it,” she said.
“We have great opportunities here in Philadelphia and all we are saying with this bill is that if you take tax dollars you need to give back to the working people,” said Councilman Mark Squilla.
What is a ‘Prevailing Wage’ anyway? It can either mean the amount that the majority of workers in that market make, or a specific standard that has been set. In this law a worker will be paid whichever of the two amounts is higher.