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Living Wage Referendum: How We Got Here and What Lies Ahead

By September 27, 2013January 15th, 2016No Comments

by POWER Staff

As POWER celebrates yesterday’s victory, we look back on the path that got us here and the road ahead towards guaranteeing tens of thousands of better jobs for our brothers and sisters city-wide.  A year and a half ago, POWER set off to ensure that the wealth generated at the Philadelphia International airport benefits our communities in the form of good jobs.  In that work, we discovered a shadow economy of subcontractors at the airport that, because the City’s Living Wage Ordinance has not applied to them, pay workers minimum wage and less and provide poor benefits– a loophole which other subcontracted firms city-wide and industry-wide take advantage of while keeping working Philadelphians in poverty.

By highlighting the struggle of airport workers, POWER and its labor allies sparked movement from City Council, lead by Councilman Wilson Goode, Jr to establish a long-term solution to this

“Race to the Bottom.” In September, Goode introduced the bill to see that the Living Wage Ordinance is implemented according to its original intent – guaranteeing that public monies are not sponsoring poverty wages – by expanding the requirement to all City subcontractors.

The bill passed unanimously in Council yesterday, but POWER Leaders know that if approved by voters as is, the Mayor would still be able to provide blanket waivers to businesses, still preventing families from earning a living wage despite public opinion.  That means our first major next step is to push for policy reform that changes the waiver-granting system so that we can be sure the higher standard casts as thorough and wide a net as possible for years to come. Step two will be to educate our neighbors on the importance of voting yes on the referendum in May – we will knock on doors, call voters, hold forums, and do everything else in our power to guarantee that there is deep and wide public support for this policy that will help usher in a city of opportunity for all.