After lengthy public commentary last night, the Ann Arbor city council passed the second reading of the resolution for a living wage with a 9-1 vote.
The new ordinance requires companies contracted by the city to pay $8.70 per hour to workers receiving health insurance or $10.20 per hour to all others in government contracts with the city.
Now that the proposal has passed through two votes, the first on a Feb. 20 meeting, it is ready to be enacted as law.
The ordinance must be implemented within the next 10 days for all future city government contracts.
As stipulated in the ordinance, those already under contract are exempt until renewal.
Ann Arbor is the 55th city in the country to pass the living wage and the sixth in the state of Michigan. Other communities with a living wage ordinance include Detroit, Warren, Ferndale, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township.
There is a bill currently being formed in the state Legislature that would prohibit local governments from passing ordinances that mandate a wage higher than the state minimum, but city officials said they hoped Ann Arbor would be protected by a “grandfather clause” allowing those places with a living wage already in effect to be exempt from the legislation.
Mayor John Hieftje said after last night”s public commentary that it was obvious what members of the community wanted to see happen.
“We are going to pass the living wage and are happy to do so,” Hieftje said.
“Anyone who was watching tonight saw the groundswell support from the community,” he said.
Hieftje”s support of the living wage contrasts the views of his predecessor, Ingrid Sheldon, who vetoed the proposal after it passed through the city council last spring with a 6-5 majority.
Councilman Robert Johnson (D-Ward I) said passing the living wage is simply “the right thing to do.”
“Even though people are working full-time, they are still below the poverty line,” Johnson said. “I don”t want to be part of a city that does that.”
Ann Arbor resident Scott Wojack said the aims of the living wage may run counter to the efforts of the people living in Ann Arbor.
“They should be addressing the high cost of living and how we can bring it down instead of trying to match it with wages,” Wojack said. “Rental agencies are able to force students to sign a lease six months in advance, which then drives the price up for others.”
The city reviewed numerous studies supported by local organizations before passing the ordinance.
One of these groups was the Washtenaw Coalition for a Living Wage, a blanket organization that includes the University”s Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality.
SOLE president and LSA senior Peter Romer-Friedman said the labor organization supported the living wage because of the benefits it offered workers.
“Every public entity has a responsibility to pay its workers and contracted workers above the poverty line,” Romer-Friedman said.
“It is indefensible for the University of Michigan or the city of Ann Arbor to pay less,” he said.
Romer-Friedman added that many students rely on city jobs to offset the costs of their education.
“As students we have a duty to stand in solidarity with all workers and Ann Arbor to promote livable wages,” Romer-Friedman said.
The Ann Arbor City Council also passed a resolution requesting the University to study the impacts of the living wage.
“This is a golden opportunity to allow us to look at it (the living wage),” Johnson said.
“No one can be absolutely certain that the benefits outweigh the risks.”
Johnson said if studies show the living wage has an adverse effect on the city, the council would revisit the issue in a few years.