Living wage ordinance raises minimum to $10.55

Canela López, Contributing Writer

New Orleans joined the national trend of raising minimum wage on Aug. 6 after the New Orleans “living wage” ordinance was passed by the City Council with a unanimous vote.

The ordinance will require companies that have a contract of $25,000 or more with the city of New Orleans or that have projects that have received over $100,000 in tax breaks, subsidies or grants from the city to increase their minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.55 beginning Jan. 1, 2016.

Employers that fall under the ordinance would also have to grant seven days of paid sick leave a year to all employees.

Louisiana is one of the four states that does not have its own minimum wage policy and currently follows the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Tulane University might be affected by the ordinance. Those who work on campus under companies with contracts with the city, including students, may see a raise in their earnings.

The policy was originally proposed by City Councilman Jared Brossett in January 2015, following a trend set by other progressive cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles and Chicago after public outcry and protests around the country.

According to The New Orleans Advocate, Brossett’s goal with the new policy is to lower the city’s percentage of “working poor” individuals who remain in poverty despite working one or more jobs.

“I won’t accept city funds going to pay poverty wages,” Brossett said in an interview with The New Orleans Advocate. “I want New Orleans not to just be a great place to visit, but also a place to live and raise a family at any income level.”

Assistant Professor of Economics Patrick Button said that the minimum wage would not be an effective solution in combatting city-wide poverty and job disparity due to its lack of accuracy.

“You may completely miss the dartboard and hit the wall and that may be a worker who had a minimum wage job … and then perhaps she gets fired or more likely, this individual never gets hired because there’s less hiring now in that particular field,” Button said.

Button and many other economists believe that increasing the minimum wage may in fact have negative implications for those seeking employment, specifically workers of color and women. With an increase in demand for jobs that now pay the new minimum wage, the availability of these jobs would decrease and most likely be given to those with higher education.

With the implementation of this policy, New Orleans as whole will have to wait and see where it falls on the dart board.