New Orleans City Council members approved a minimum wage hike for people working under city contracts by a 6-0 vote Aug. 6. The $10.55 "living wage" ordinance is authored by District D Councilman Jared Brossett, who called the measure "a first step to bring our city on a more progressive path to prosperity." He added that said government "should not accept the term 'working poor' as part of our permanent vernacular."
Under the ordinance, companies with a city contract of $25,000 or more — as well as companies receiving tax breaks and other subsidies from the city — must pay their employees a minimum of $10.55 an hour and give them at least one week of paid time off. (Mayor Mitch Landrieu approved a municipal $10.10 minimum wage for direct city employees last year.)
More than a dozen people spoke in support of the measure. They included Colette Tippy with Stand With Dignity of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice. The center co-organized a rally on the steps of City Hall that afternoon with members of local unions, the Congress of Day Laborers, Black Youth Project 100 NOLA and other organizations.
"This is a huge step forward to make black workers matter in New Orleans," said Tippy, who urged the council to protect workers from retaliation from contractors who refuse to follow the ordinance. Tippy asked the council to promise it will provide protection "when these workers need it."
Brossett and District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said they would not tolerate retaliation. "And if it does occur, I say snatch the contract," Cantrell said.
Living wage advocates also pressed for a higher minimum wage and for the ordinance to cover more workers. Louisiana law prohibits municipal governments from setting citywide minimum wages; the state's hourly minimum is $7.25.
An August report from The Data Center said New Orleans ranks second in income inequality among 300 U.S. cities.