Tuesday night, dozens of Athenians filled City Hall to show their support for a Living Wage to be paid to ALL County workers.
At the end of a very long Mayor & Commission voting session the once standing-room-only crowd had only gotten slightly smaller but more energized as they prepared to show support for the A4E-drafted ACC Living Wage Policy.
A4E Outreach Coordinator Jesse Houle started off by announcing our ongoing public petition for the Living Wage Policy, “We request that the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government ensure all County employees are paid a Living Wage. We ask that this ACC Living Wage Policy be set in accordance with the nationally-recognized MIT Living Wage Calculator. Currently, the Living Wage in Athens is $10.17 or greater per hour according to that calculator…I would like to emphasize part time and seasonal workers, this is about all County workers.”
Before finishing, Jesse addressed the people in attendance, “I would like to ask my fellow human beings in this room to raise your hands or stand to show that you are here in support of this ACC Living Wage Policy.” Almost every person in the room then stood or raised their hand (see Grady Newsource video below).
A4E Board Member Drew Hooks came to the podium next to emphasize how this policy could help the overall economic situation in Athens, GA. “This policy is something that can set an example for other employers in Clarke County” he stated, “including our largest employer, the University of Georgia.”
Linda Lloyd, the Executive Director of the Economic Justice Coalition, echoed the importance and feasibility of an ACC Living Wage Policy, “This 38% poverty rate we have here in Athens makes me sick. This is about families and living wages.”“What we are trying to get at here is the part time and temporary employee”, she continued. “You can do this with your budget. It’s only $38,000. We don’t need to be arguing over this when we have this big budget.”
Last to the podium was Athens for Everyone President Tim Denson. Tim began by reading the first goal listed in the ACC Economic Development Department’s 2015 Goals & Objectives:
Identify and recruit economic development opportunities that support and enhance Athens-Clarke County’s quality of life, increase the tax base, & provide opportunities for sustained, livable wages for workers.
“So what we are doing here tonight is we are identifying an economic development opportunity that will provide sustained, livable wages for workers”, Tim said.
“As of September 1, we have a minimum of 11 positions part-time or temporary workers making under $10.17 per hour.”, Tim said, referencing the Open Records Requests filed by Athens for Everyone. “There is a whole list of other season positions not counted here too that are also being paid under $10.17 an hour. Why do we feel like part time workers work is valued less? [Their work] is not less valuable.”
After the public comment section was over, Commissioner were given the chance for report backs and three of the ten Commissioners spoke favorably of the Policy. Commissioner Andy Herod was the first to mention the ACC Living Wage Policy:
“It’s a very important thing for us to set an example.”, Commissioner Herod said. “The question is does someone who works deserve to be paid a living wage for the amount of time that they are working? I think the answer to that question is yes. I would certainly be interested in us looking at that issue when it comes budget time.”
Commissioner Melissa Link echoed those sentiments, “We take very good care of our ACC full time employees and it’s high-time that we take care of our part-time employees. At the very least we can pay them a Living Wage.”
Commissioner Kelly Girtz also spoke his support, “I’m interested in a strong Living Wage floor for our employees, including our part-time employees.”
The Athens for Everyone Workers Rights Campaign plans on working with the Athens-Clarke County Government over the next few months to ensure that an ACC Living Wage Policy is in place moving forward. The A4E Workers Rights meetings are always welcoming to new volunteers with the next meeting happening on November 8 at 2pm at the ACC Public Library.