Philly charter change would reinforce Nutter order on wages

     Supporters of raising the minimum wage are shown at a May 2014 gathering at 9th and Market streets outside of The Gallery to show support for minimum wage workers. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY, file)

    Supporters of raising the minimum wage are shown at a May 2014 gathering at 9th and Market streets outside of The Gallery to show support for minimum wage workers. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY, file)

    Two new measures in Philadelphia promise to raise the wages of employees for some of the companies benefiting from government contracts.

    Mayor Michael Nutter’s recent executive order is similar to a proposed city charter change that will be on the ballot later this month. It’s one that airport baggage handler Serena Santos brought up at a rally last week, where she talked about supporting four children on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

    “We really need for you guys to go up and vote yes,” she said. “Without this we just basically are going to be living in poverty and I know everybody that’s out here is tired of living off poverty wages.”

    Why are organizers still pushing for a charter change so similar to the mayor’s executive order which, by the way, requires certain subcontractors taking on city work to pay their employees at least $10.88 an hour?

    Gabriel Morgan of the Service Employees International Union said the amendment would make the changes in the mayor’s measure permanent.

    “There’ll be a new mayor in a couple of years. There’ll be a new mayor after that and executive orders come and go,” he said. “This makes this the official law of the city.”

    Morgan said the charter change would also make the wage standard enforceable, and that’s not the case with an executive order.

    While the security clearance required for airport workers makes it possible to know how many workers the change affects at the airport, city officials and labor advocates say that, overall, they do not know how many people will be affected by the wage rules change.

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