Commissioner wants local governments to set wage standards - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Commissioner wants local governments to set wage standards

(WMC-TV) - A Mid-South lawmaker is calling on his peers to fight for the right of local governments of local governments to establish their own wage standards.

Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy said state lawmakers are stepping on local toes.

"They should let us decide how we want to pay people that we are contracting with our tax dollars to do work in our county," said Mulroy.

A current state bill is aimed at limiting local governments from setting their own salary and benefits standards.  It would put an end to living and prevailing wages for non-government workers who perform services for local governments.

"No local government would ever be allowed to pay a living wage or a prevailing wage law, which I think is bad," said Mulroy.

The county commission will vote Monday on a resolution drafted by Mulroy to oppose state input on local wages.

"Clearly, it puts corporations and businesses over people," said Mulroy.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25.  Shelby County government is currently required to pay outsourced workers, such as janitors and security officers, no less than the $10 per hour living wage government employees receive.

The current prevailing wage requires government contractors pay workers no less than the industry average, from $24.28 per hour for a truck driver to $43.16 for a machinist.

Mulroy said requiring only minimum wage could have unforeseen outcomes.

"Often what happens is out-of-state firms will come in using labor from out of state, sometimes undocumented citizens, and will underbid local contractors by paying exploitive wages," he said.

While Mulroy said an end to living and prevailing wages would plunge West Tennessee deeper into poverty, supporters said the change would draw more employers to Tennessee and create jobs.

The bill is currently stuck in committee.

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