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New Orleans City Council members Jared C. Brossett, Kristen Gisleson Palmer, Donna Glapion, Jay H. Banks, and Cyndi Nguyen introduced an amendment to the Living Wage Ordinance at the council’s June 10 meeting to increase the starting wage to $15 per hour. 

The increase would be phased in over two years, requiring $13.25 on January 1, 2022, and the full $15 starting January 1, 2023.

 The living wage requirements apply to contractors with $25,000 or more in annual city contracts, recipients of city financial assistance of $100,000 or more, and employee time that is spent on city contracts or projects involving city aid. 

The purpose of the Living Wage Ordinance is to ensure that taxpayer dollars extended by the City to private contractors are used in a manner that creates jobs and keeps contracted and subcontracted workers and their families out of poverty. Living wages also make good financial sense for businesses. The payment of higher wages is associated with increased levels of business investment and employee training, higher worker productivity, and lower employee absenteeism and turnover.

The original Living Wage Ordinance, passed in 2015, fixed pay at $10.55 per hour, adjusted upwards annually with inflation. Currently, the living wage is set at $11.19 per hour. The ordinance also requires employers to provide seven days of sick leave for covered employees.  

Starting this year, the City Council will receive an annual presentation as part of the budget presentation disclosing all contracts and city financial assistance agreements involving a covered employer. For each contract and agreement, the list must identify the hourly wage earned by the lowest paid covered employee and the number of compensated leave days provided to employees earning less than 130 percent of the prevailing living wage.

 Additionally, the amendment added a provision stipulating that any contract or city financial assistance agreement longer than one year includes annual inflation adjustments to the mandated living wage requirement. This ensures that employees receive a living wage for the duration of a contract. As long as the contractor is receiving city tax dollars, the employees must be paid a living wage adjusted for inflation.