by Carli Stevenson | December 23, 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville last week became the first city in the South to raise its minimum wage, settling on $9 an hour after much debate and compromise. The 16-9 vote by the Louisville Metro Council was along party lines, with all Democrats voting in favor of the increase and Republicans opposing.
The original ordinance, and the one advocated by the Louisville Minimum Wage Coalition, called for a $10.10 an hour minimum wage. But Mayor Greg Fischer threatened a veto, claiming such an increase would result in job loss, a claim not supported by the evidence.
Minimum wage workers in Jefferson County will see a raise to $9 an hour during a period of three years. After 2017, the minimum wage will be indexed to inflation.
Supporters of the ordinance packed the Metro Council chambers. Amid the supporters were many AFSCME members, including Joshua Wysor, a horticultural park worker for Jefferson County who said he had personal reasons for wanting to come to Metro Council and an increased minimum wage.
“When I was in college, I worked a lot of different jobs that paid minimum wage. I worked as a deli clerk, a waiter, among other jobs. I didn’t even get to $10 an hour until a family friend pulled some strings. I would make it up to a higher wage, but every time I had to switch jobs it seemed I would go back down to $8 an hour again. If that can happen to me as an educated, articulate person, what will happen to folks who are not as fortunate as I am?”
While Wysor thinks raising the wage is an important step in the right direction, he knows this ordinance is the just the first step. Louisville needs a comprehensive agenda for working families.
“This is really just a Hail Mary for the working poor,” Wysor said. “We won’t be a world-class city until we follow other cities like Portland, Oregon, which adopted truly living wages.”
Previous: ‘Dreaming of a Fair Governor’ in Missouri