A new living wage in New Orleans guarantees workers under city contracts a 44 percent increase in pay. The move will cost taxpayers about $60 million, but there's nothing in the new law to ensure that those making the extra money must live within the city.
It was the culmination of years of effort by city Councilman Jared Brossett. With Brossett and other council members standing by, the mayor signed into law, a new living wage ordinance that guarantees all workers under future city contracts $10.55 an hour.
"Today is a great day as we reverse a trend that we won't condone poverty wages in our city," Brossett said.
The law also provides that workers under city contract will get seven days s of paid sick leave each year.
"When they don't get that seven days of sick leave, they get a 30 percent increase in their wages, which goes up to 13 plus dollars," said higher wage advocate Latoya Lewis, with the group Stand With Dignity.
The law takes effect Jan. 1 and it won't be cheap.
"The administration gave a fiscal note. It said something to the tune of $60 million, but they will continue to work that out," Brossett said.
While the people of New Orleans will pay substantially more, currently there are no guarantees that the people who benefit will actually come from Orleans Parish.
"Paying a living wage is important for anybody that's working for contractors that are doing work for the city. That's the point whether they live in the city or not," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
City officials say new living wage provisions are still being tweaked.
"We gonna continue to work on local hiring, and the administration is working on an ordinance, and the policy - we're gonna keep working on that," Brossett said.
"One of the other things we're doing is making sure contractors hire local folks, so we'll watch that and have an enforcement arm," Landrieu said.
Landrieu says the new higher wage is an economic strategy. He says, when it comes to salaries, "a rising tide lifts all boats."