In a major victory for service worker unions, City Council voted to expand prevailing wage laws to employees or contractors working in “city-subsidized” buildings, like universities and hospitals.
The bill will effectively raise the average wage for service workers, such as security guards or janitors, by several dollars an hour. The legislation passed unanimously, prompting cheers from service union members in the gallery.
Councilperson Helen Gym, who authored the bill, said it would mean less government money would be spent on social programs that “subsidize poverty wages.”
“I’m proud to say that Council is committed to tackling the inequality that divides our city,” she said, in a statement. “Our bill represents an effort on the part of city government to fight back against the unequal distribution of resources that has for too long forced too many to live with too little.”
Many universities and hospitals receive city financing for construction projects or other public assistance, in addition to tax-free land. Other buildings covered by the new law include stadiums, the convention center, port facilities and special service districts like the Old City District. Statistics distributed by Gym claimed the wage increase would have a positive economic impact of $22 million.
Union leaders hailed the move.
“This is a momentous day for workers across the city,” said Gabe Morgan, vice president of SEIU 32BJ, a service workers union that covers Philadelphia. “Expanding the prevailing wage opens the doors of opportunity for thousands of building service workers to lift themselves out of poverty,"
In other council business, Councilmember Jannie Blackwell also pushed for zoning changes to begin the massive Schuylkill Yards redevelopment plan.