City Council Committee Reviews Liveable Wage Law

Jul 26, 2013

Credit 401(K)2013/Flickr

A committee of the Burlington City council is reviewing a law that requires businesses that contract with the city to pay a livable wage.

In 2001, the city of Burlington enacted a Livable Wage law that requires minimum wage levels for city employees and the employees of entities that contract with the city.
Last year, a restaurant called the Skinny Pancake leased space at the Burlington International Airport, a city owned property, and received an exemption from the law. That set off a debate over the ordinance.  Mayor Miro Weinberger requested a detailed review from the city attorney on Burlington's record of implementing and enforcing the ordinance.  Among its findings are that only 14 percent of contracts include a required oath of compliance; until the review began, except for the Burlington Electric Department, there was little monitoring of compliance; there are no standards for exemptions; and until early 2013, it was difficult to determine Burlington's livable wage rate. The report was forwarded to the City Council, and its Ordinance Committee has been holding public hearings. Ward 5 Democrat Chip Mason chairs the committee.

The Peace and Justice Center has been a driving force in implementing livable wage programs in Vermont. Board Member Nathan Suter says there are significant gaps in the law.

Vermont Workers’ Center Organizer Matt McGrath says the ordinance wasn’t working, and there is now an opportunity to strengthen it.

Burlington Business Association Executive Director Kelly Devine says one of the things that must be assessed is how best to apply the ordinance.

Under the current city law, workers with health insurance must be paid at least $13.94 an hour, or $15.83 hourly if the employee does not receive health insurance.