Atlanta looking at ways to increase minimum wage for city workers

Responding to a national and local push to raise the minimum wage, the city of Atlanta is exploring ways to increase the wages of some of the city’s lowest paid workers.

This week, the Atlanta City Council voted to look at the feasibility of increasing the minimum wage for all full-time city employees to $15 an hour in increments over a three-year period beginning in 2018.

If approved, the minimum salary of a city worker could go up nearly $5. Atlanta would be only the second municipality in Georgia to adopt a $15 minimum, following Clarkston.

“There is a national conversation going on about addressing the minimum wage,” said Councilwoman Felicia Moore. “This is something we should be looking at.”

The resolution was sponsored by Moore and Andre Dickens.

While the federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour, minimum wage in Georgia for employees who are exempt from the Federal Fair Labor Standard Act is $5.15 per hour, which is equivalent to just $10,712 annually for a full-time worker. Few workers make that little.

President Barack Obama has pushed for a federal increase. First, in his 2013 State of the Union address, he advocated for a $9 minimum wage. In November of that same year, Obama began lobbying for $10.10, based on inflation.

In 2015, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed raised the minimum wage for full-time city employees to $10.10 per hour.

“I believe that the quality of services provided in the city to its residents will be advanced because raising the wages reduces costly employee turnover, eliminates disruption in services, increases productivity and creates a more stable work environment,” Dickens said. “Statistics show that increasing the minimum wage will increase consumer purchasing power, increase workers’ standards of living, reduce poverty and stimulate the economy.”

Nationwide, the push for a so-called living wage of $15 an hour for all workers gained momentum. In Atlanta, for example, a group called “Atl Raise Up,” has joined the Black Lives Matter movement to bring attention to #Fightfor15, to raise the wages of fast-food workers.

This summer, Washington, D.C. mandated that restaurant, retail and other service industry employers pay a minimum $15-an-hour wage. Roughly 50 cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, have passed similar rules in recent years.

In July, Clarkston became the first Georgia city this week to mandate a minimum $15 an hour minimum wage for its employees.

Results of the Atlanta feasibility study will be revealed on Dec. 14.