New Orleans to consider $15/hour minimum wage for city employees, contractors 

Economic development committee will hear proposal Thursday

By: - June 23, 2021 8:18 pm
New Orleans considers minimum wage hike

(Getty Images)

A proposed ordinance to raise the minimum wage of city contractors and some city workers to $15 per hour will appear before a New Orleans City Council committee Thursday. 

The city council’s Economic Development and Special Development Projects Committee will hear an amendment to increase the city’s base minimum pay rate for some city employees and city contractors to $15 per hour by 2023. 

New Orleans adopted an ordinance setting pay at $10.55 per hour in 2016. It is designed to automatically adjust to inflation and is currently $11.19 per hour.

The ordinance requires compliance from contractors with at least $25,000 in annual city contracts and any organizations that receive at least $100,000 in grants, tax incentives, loans and other forms of financial assistance from the city. It applies to some, but not all, city employees. Only city employees who work with the distribution of city funding to outside groups would enjoy the minimum wage guarantee.

The amendment, authored by Councilmember Jared Brossett, proposes an incremental adjustment to the minimum wage for some city workers and contractors over the next two years. It would increase to $13.25 per hour for the 2022 calendar year, and then to $15 per hour for the 2023 calendar year. The inflation-based adjustments would then continue as normal by 2024.

Under Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the city pays its employees a minimum of $11.21 per hour, according to a Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate article .  

Brossett’s amendment follows a trend set by cities and counties across the country that have raised wages to $15 per hour or higher. Twenty-seven localities pushed their minimum wages past $15 per hour this year, according to the National Employment Law Project

The proposed wage hike could appear before a New Orleans City Council that has strengthened the ordinance after its initial adoption five years ago. The council started requiring city departments this year to post information regarding financial aid deals and city contracts, including hourly wages and paid leave, to the city’s website.

However, New Orleans and other municipalities across the state are prohibited by state law from setting a higher local minimum wage that would apply to private industry workers. 

“The Living Wage Ordinance is an investment in our residents and a moral obligation to those who are performing the vital labor that keeps our City moving forward,” Brossett said in an email Wednesday. “This is not just about providing jobs; it’s about providing jobs that pay living wages. We owe it to our residents to ensure that city contract jobs are paying a wage that allows an individual to provide for their family. According to MIT’s Living Wage calculator, the minimum living wage amount for Orleans Parish is $15 an hour. This is the minimum amount needed for an individual to put food on the table and to keep a roof over their head.”  

Louisiana, which has no state minimum wage, follows the federal labor law of $7.25 per hour. Despite previous efforts by Democrats and a recent push by President Joe Biden to raise it to $15, the stalemate in Congress has left the federal wage unchanged since 2009.

Nonprofit advocacy groups Step Up Louisiana and Stand With Dignity are calling for workers to join them in attending the committee meeting to support Brossett’s proposal. 

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and recognitions, including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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