Memphis councilman plans pay raise for some city workers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —A plan to increase the wage for a little over 400 city workers who make less than $15 is in the works, a Memphis City Council member says.

Thirty-thousand-dollars a year is not a lot to live on, but that`s what some city workers who make less $15 an hour have to deal with.

"By the time they take out federal taxes and everything else they don't have no more than about $150 to $200. They got to pay bills too, rent and utility bills. It is robbery without a gun," says Deirdre Jones of South Memphis.

Jackalisa Wesley from East Memphis says progress can't be made until people get paid a decent salary.

"How can we eradicate poverty if we don't pay people? If people aren't making a decent salary?" Wesley says.

City Councilman Edmund Ford says its time for things to change.

"When you go and you delve deeper into the data, there are some people that are being left out," Ford says.

Ford says about 420 employees in areas like library services and police service technicians make less than $15 an hour and some of them have been with the city a very long time.

"There are a few that have given more than 30 years of experience. But when you look at their salary is $29,000 but they have given more than half their life to city service," Ford said.

It's why he is proposing increasing those 420 employees salary to $15.50 an hour. He says it will cost about $1.4 million to make it happen by July.

But Mayor Jim Strickland says the City is working on increasing those wages already.

"Every city employee full-time employee makes a livable wage and 95% of our employees make at least $15 an hour," Strickland said

Strickland says there is room for improvement, but it will take time.

" We do have some employees that are under paid. We will try to address that with a limited budget every year. We did a little bit last year, do a little bit this year and over several years hopefully make up that difference," Strickland said.

But Councilman Ford says he wants to be the voice for those workers who may not have unions representing them.
He says he is willing to work on a time table and see where they can find the money but this is something that is needed.

" We are Memphis. We can be special. We can be a little bit different. We can make sure those individual who may not necessarily be at the $15 mark , let's look at possibly getting a base wage of $15.50 for the City of Memphis," Ford said.

Ford plans to present his proposal to Memphis City Council next Tuesday.

A lot of this talk came forward when Shelby County School Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said he was moving to have all school employees make at least $15 an hour.

The mayor says the city has a much smaller budget than the school system but he is committed to working toward that.