CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On Labor Day 2019 politicians are talking about how to raise the wages of some city contracted workers. The city outsources custodial jobs. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake says several people who work as custodians at the Government Center only make $7.25 an hour.
She says they have come to her asking - how they can get their pay increased. Leake says she has had to provide assistance to some of the contracted workers during Thanksgiving and Christmas. She says raising their pay would make a difference for them.
“Living conditions would be better for them,” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake said. “Transportation would be better for them. They don’t have any type of support at all - no sick leave, no bonuses, no nothing - other than what the contractor gets for themselves versus paying the staff that’s there in that building.”
During this year’s city budget, city leaders talked about a way to get those contracted employees a higher wage. The city raised pay for all hourly city employees to $16 an hour but left contracted workers behind.
“We have people who come to work every single day,” District 2 City Councilman Dr. Justin Harlow said. “That keep our facilities clean. They just don’t work technically for the city of Charlotte but they are doing work for the city of Charlotte.”
Harlow says numbers were presented to council to try and raise pay, but the conversation didn’t gain any traction.
“They chose not to do it,” Leake said. “And that to me is not humanly acceptable in this day and time when we are talking about poverty.”
City leaders’ objective is to tackle economic mobility, but Leake wonders how can that be. The city owns the Government Center and workers who clean it don’t make a living wage. Even though these positions are part-time - Leake says helping raise the could mean they don’t have to work three jobs. Harlow agrees and wants city council to keep talking about what to do raise pay for contracted employees.
“Our next step has to be how do we either look at how we do procurement,” Harlow said. “And how we do contracts to make sure that those that are receiving those contracts are also treating those employees - those contracted workers fairly to meet some of our goals for the city.”
Harlow is not running for re-election but says if the city wants to be serious about economic mobility it has to address workers who are paid by contractors the city hires.
“I think it’s certainly something we need to look into if we are going to be about fair wages,” Harlow said. “And equal pay and upward mobility - then our contracted workers also need to be looking at getting paid $16 an hour.”
The outgoing politician also suggests that council should talk to the contractors and ask how they can increase wages for its employees. He also wants labor groups to confront city leaders.
“Put pressure on the council,” Harlow said. “Come down to public forums - there’s community support for this as well.”
Time will tell if Harlow’s colleagues will act on his advice. Leake would just like people to earn a living wage while working in the place where city leaders conduct the people’s business.
“Let’s treat our people fairly,” Leake said. “Let’s help our people not try to not support them, but to do what we can for everybody else.”
Harlow is also interested in the idea the county could help put money behind this effort.