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Jackson Mayor Proposing $15.68 Minimum Wage For City Employees

Derek Dobies photo
Courtesy photo
City of Jackson
Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies appears in a file photo.

Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies wants to make sure all city employees and many contractors are paid more than $15 an hour.

If approved by the City Council, Dobies' proposal would set a $15.68 minimum wage for everyone employed by the city as well as everyone who works for a city contractor that does not offer health benefits.

Businesses that contract with the city would be able pay a lower hourly wage at $13.32 if they do offer health care.

After 2023, those wages would increase to keep pace with federal poverty thresholds.

Dobies says he set a $15.68 floor based on a model from the Massachusetts Institute of Technologythat calculates the living wage needed to support two working adults and a child in the Jackson area.

“What we've seen with the lack of raising minimum wage laws at the state and federal level is that it hasn't kept up with the cost of living," Dobies said.

Michigan’s minimum hourly wage is $9.65, which amounts to just over $20,000 annually for someone working 40-hour weeks.

Since 2015, Michigan law bans municipalities from setting citywide minimum wages. But Dobies says officials still have the authority to raise wages for city employees and businesses that receive city money.

Dobies said Thursday he does not know exactly how much it would cost the city of Jackson to bring all its employees up to $15.68 an hour, but he said a minority of city staff makes less than that.

The mayor disputed the argument that a higher minimum wage will burden employers and discourage hiring.

"In the midst of a pandemic when we have all of these jobs that remain open and unfilled, we don't have a jobs problem or job gap," he said. "We have a wage gap.”

The ordinance includes carve-outs for youth programs like internships and work studies. And nonprofits could apply for exemptions if they include a plan for meeting the pay minimums within three years.

Dobies plans to introduce a draft of the ordinance at a City Council meeting Tuesday.

Sarah Lehr is a state government reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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