Albany proposal would set ‘living wage’ for employees

ALBANY — The city is moving forward with its promise to ensure every full-time employee earns at least $15.50 an hour.

Councilman Ginnie Farrell introduced legislation late Monday that would require the city to pay this “living wage” to all full-time employees after Mayor Kathy Sheehan introduced the idea last October.

“I’ve been pushing really hard since February and now I’m at the point where I just want this to happen,” she said at Monday’s joint council meeting.

Albany County passed legislation earlier this year to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour for about 60 employees.

There are only 16 employees in the city currently earning less than $15.50 an hour. The city was unable to raise their salary to $15.50 because they are part of the blue-collar union, which is in the middle of contract negotiations.

Most of those affected by the proposal work as laborers in the city’s Department of General Services. It also includes some employees of the water service and the recreation service.

Farrell noted that in some cases, full-time employees who earn less than $15.50 an hour work with and train temporary employees who are paid that rate. The city attempted to sign a memorandum of understanding with the bargaining unit that would increase the floor for these employees, but could not come to an agreement with the union. Those delays prompted her to introduce the bill, Farrell said.

“I think good is good. We need to make sure the lowest paid people get a living wage,” she said. “It’s not a big budget, it’s just something we should be doing.”

The bill would not be retroactive.

Sheehan laid out the idea in her 2021 budget proposal last October, saying she calculated a living wage in the city at $15.52 an hour. An hourly rate of $15.50 is equivalent to $32,240 per year over a 40 hour work week. Sheehan’s office declined to comment on the bill, citing ongoing labor negotiations.

The local law is expected to be voted on at the City Council meeting on September 9.

Michael A. Bynum