Dallas Adopts Living Wage Rules for Contract Workers

Dallas joined Austin on Tuesday as the only two among the largest Texas cities to require a minimum wage for service contract workers.

In the future, Dallas contractors – except for construction – must pay workers at least $10.37 an hour. Contract garbage collectors pushed for a "living wage" in recent years, and Dallas city leaders want to boost prosperity.

"It's something we've talked about for two-and-a-half, three years, so I'm glad we're getting it done," Mayor Mike Rawlings said.

Officials are not sure how much more the raises will cost, but the mayor predicts higher wages in future city contracts will add an additional $12 million to next year's city budget.

Dallas Sanitation Director Kelly High said a higher wage for contract garbage collectors could increase residential garbage collection fees by $1 a month next year.

"I believe that those budgetary impacts pale in comparison to the good that we're going to do our citizens by allowing them to pay for their own way," Councilman Philip Kingston said. "We're, today, making a real commitment to fighting poverty in the city of Dallas. I hope that this will serve as an example to other employers in the city."

Dallas already pays its regular city employees at least $10.37 an hour plus benefits.

Jennifer Staubach Gates was the only one of 15 council members to vote against the service contract wage floor.

"We're not running a nonprofit here. We're running a government entity and we have to be fiscally responsible," she said.

Instead of a requirement, Gates tried unsuccessfully to make wages an optional incentive for higher scores in competition with other bidders for future city contracts.

"I agree with the goals we're trying to achieve with this process. I just don't agree with the way we're trying to go about it," Gates said.

Councilman Rickey Callahan said Dallas has faced a drag on wages since the recent recession.

"Come on. It's time we elevate the wages, show some pride. This is Dallas, Texas, the ninth largest city in America. We just have to do a better job of taking care of our people," Callahan said.

Among the other 10 largest Texas cities, Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth, El Paso, Arlington, Corpus Christi, Plano and Laredo have no such contract wage floor, according to a September City of Dallas briefing.

Officials said the new Dallas rules will apply to renewals of 19 service contracts for janitorial service, grounds maintenance, sanitation collection and convention center event set up.

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