A livable wage campaign for Alachua County

by Sheila Payne, Alachua County Labor Coalition

The Alachua County Labor Coalition is forging ahead with the first leg of its Livable Wage Campaign in Alachua County. We are speaking to many groups, congregations, unions, businesses and individuals to educate our community about the need for a higher minimum wage in Alachua County, a livable wage.

Over 25 organizations including Veterans for Peace, The Sierra Club, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1205 have endorsed the campaign so far to lift low wage workers over the poverty line. If you would like one of our crackerjack speakers to come speak to your organization, please contact us. We welcome the involvement of the whole community in this effort, which will not only raise the wages of our target businesses, but the wages of the whole community. As wages rise in certain sectors of a community, all wages rise as businesses compete for workers.

When the Iguana hits the newsstands, we will have had our first public meeting on July 7 with the Board of County Commissioners, where the issue of a Living Wage will be addressed in the context of the yearly budget. We have met with all of the commissioners and with county staff and have presented them with a white paper explaining our position with fancy charts and statistical data about the overall poverty rate in Alachua county, and different poverty metrics including the MIT Poverty Calculator which puts a living wage in Alachua County at $14.32/hour.

We have also shared with the county a proposed ordinance, drafted by a labor lawyer.

We are going to the County Commission and asking that they pay a Living Wage based on the Federal Poverty Level, which is $11.66/hour and then over the next 5 years increasing that rate to 125% or $14.57/hour. This wage would include all county workers and the workers that work for the county under contract. Additionally, the wage rate would also be adjusted every year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.

We will then go to the other nine largest employers in Alachua County including UF and Santa Fe to pressure them to also honor this wage contract with the community they reside in and benefit from.

We expect to go to each of the public County Commission meetings over the next two months, where the commissioners will direct staff to do their own analysis of our white paper and ordinance. We then expect that within a month there will be a public reading and first vote on an ordinance, and then soon after, a second vote. This is when we really need supporters to come to the meetings and let the commissioners know that all workers and their families deserve to live a dignified life made more possible by a living wage.

Please contact your commissioners in support of this issue at: http://www.alachuacounty.us/Depts/BoCC/Pages/BOCC.aspx.

Please go to our website to see the ordinance and white paper and to click all of those data links and keep up to date on this campaign: http://laborcoalition.org/ living-wage-campaign/.

You can also join our Facebook group, where we post all meetings and events. We would welcome your input and organizing talents. https://www.facebook. com/groups/109862125217/.

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