Today the City Council discussed a contract with a company that provides the city with the workers who ride the trash trucks and pick up our garbage. (Agenda Item #6)
The question arose about whether it was fair to pay these workers minimum wage ($5.85/hr), rather than a living wage. In Dallas, it’s not possible to live on $5.85/hr. To be just out of poverty level, you have to make more than $10/hr. The discussion was whether to require the contractor to pay their employees $8.16/hr. That figure is not based on any analysis of what a livable wage is within our city, but simply represents the lowest hourly amount that the City pays its part-time employees.
We talk a lot about “economic development” in the Southern Sector. That usually takes the form of tax abatements or other incentives to COMPANIES, with the assumption that the company will improve the lives of people in South Dallas. This is a trickle-down theory of improving the Southern Sector.
A more direct way to help is to make sure that people who work for the city make a living wage. More than 63% of the men who collect our garbage live in South or West Dallas. Twenty-five percent of these men have been working as garbagemen from 1-3 years, and another 25% have worked more than 3 years. They fulfill one of the most fundamental services for our city, and are out there picking up trash during the heat of the summer, the rain of spring and fall, and the cold of winter. They deserve to make a living wage.
The council voted to approve the contract at the minimum wage, 15 to 5. I was among the five to vote against it (along with Medrano, Salazar, Atkins, and Davis). If we had required an increase to $8.16, it would have added $0.17 per month to our sanitation bills. That’s a very small cost to pay to ensure that our garbagmen are making a fair wage for their hard work.
In the coming months, we will have a council briefing on requiring contractors who provide temporary staff support to the city to pay those staffers more than minimum wage. If we decide to create our own minimum wage, then we can cancel the sanitation contract that was approved today, and have companies rebid at the new minimum wage for city workers.