Councilman pushes for $15 minimum wage for all city employees

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - In the wake of calls for economic equality during MLK50, there's a new effort to ensure every City of Memphis employee makes a living wage.

Now, the question is how much it will cost to raise minimum wage and where the money to pay those wages will come from.

Memphis City Councilman Edmund Ford said he appreciates the strides Mayor Jim Strickland and his administration have made to ensure most city employees make at least $15 an hour.

But he said it is now time for all full-time city employees to make more money.

MLK50 and the publication of "The Poverty Report: Memphis Since MLK" brought a renewed focus on raising wages.

"When you go and dig deeper into the data there are some people who are being left out," Ford said.

Ford said Tuesday in city council discussion, he will bring up the possibility of raising the entry level pay for all full-time city employees to $15.50 an hour.

In February, city administration stated the "City employs 6,659 full-time employees. Of that number, 351 (roughly 5 percent) make less than $15 per hour. No City employee makes less than $12 per hour."

Ford said the number of employees making less than $15 an hour is 420, and many of them are long-time employees.

"Out of the 420, over 100 individuals have given more than 10 years of their life toward working for the City of Memphis," Ford said.

Ford said in total, the wage hike would cost $1.4 million per year. He said it's money that can be found.

"Even when this Mayor...has not been able to put in raises or increments, councils have been able to find money," Ford said.

Ford said preliminary data shows if employees received the raise in July, it would cost $1.4 million.

If the raise is postponed until January, it would cost half of that at $700,000.

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