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City of Boulder looks to raise living wages

Posted at 8:37 PM, Feb 12, 2016

Under some suggestions for an increase in living wages in the City of Boulder, contractors for the city would have their pay raised to $14.02.

The Boulder City Council will look at a number of issues on Tuesday, Feb. 16, such as raising the living wage for city employees, including city-contracted employees and possibly requesting the state to allow raising the minimum wage locally. However, City Council member Bob Yates said this is just a meeting to discuss whether or not these issues are worthy of studying.

"The question Boulder City staff is asking the city council is, 'should we study the possibility of increasing those wages, or requiring our contractors should pay their employees $14 an hour?"" said Yates.

The suggestions come from the Human Services Department in Boulder and are meant to address the cost of living in the city.

"Some people refer to that as sustainable wage. A wage that would allow a family of two to live in Boulder Colorado... and be able to dedicate 30 percent of their income on housing," said Yates. "What Boulder is considering studying is whether we, as a contracting party, as a city, should require our contracting companies to pay their employees a certain amount [of money]."

Yates recognizes any decision on raising the wage for contracted employees could affect the contractors themselves. That could include the nonprofit Bridge House, a homeless and working poor outreach that employs and houses people in Boulder. Isabel McDevitt is the executive director and has been following the issue.

"We contract everyday. Five days a week. We have annual contracts, basically with three different city departments," McDevitt said.

There are currently 20 people working in the Bridge House Ready To Work program. The program performs landscaping and janitorial duties for the city. 

"Well, certainly to remain as a contractor we have to be compliant with whatever that change was," McDevitt said. "What I would say, though, is to encourage the city of Boulder to look at all of the angles and potential unintended consequences."

Yates said the increase will certainly be well studied. Included in the council's concerns would be how the city would pay for the increases in the first place. Currently, the city employs 1,200 people.

"We want to be careful if we were to pass a rule like this, we don't harm those nonprofits," Yates said. "This is complicated stuff and we want to be very careful in our study."

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