On July 1, the beginning of fiscal year 2018, the city of Atlanta started its initiative to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next two fiscal years for city workers.
The city worked with the non-profit organization Atlanta Jobs with Justice to increase the new minimum wage to $13 per hour and gradually move that amount up to $15 by 2019. According to the Jobs with Justice, this action will help move many of the 1,000 firefighter, sanitation, and parks and recreation workers out of poverty.
“We’ve been working on a [$15] campaign in Atlanta since 2013, and we identified Atlanta as an important place for this policy to [place],” said Neil Sardana, coalition coordinator of Atlanta Jobs with Justice.
Sardana said many of the public sector workers were getting paid above the federal minimum wage, $10 per hour. However, Sardana said this move gave city workers an extra boost to help them be more financially secure.
“We know that for a single mother of two, [the] actual living wage is $28 an hour to cover their living expenses,” Sardana said. “We see us moving closer to that ideal by getting folks to $15, but we also think it helps bring people out of poverty, and gives them the opportunity to be able to cover more of their daily expenses.”
Jobs with Justice held its first $15 rally in 2013 in support of fast food workers that went on strike in an effort to increase their wages to $15 per hour and to establish a union. In 2016, The Signal reported that Georgia State students involved with the advocacy group rallied on the university campus for a nationwide campaign set on increasing minimum wage to $15.
The federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 per hour, and Georgia’s official minimum wage is currently $5.15 per hour, making it the lowest in the country. Sardana said that the implementation of this policy in Atlanta was crucial mainly due to the fact that the state of Georgia preempts cities and counties from raising the minimum wages of their workers.
“We thought it was important for the city of Atlanta to at least consider raising the wages of its own employees as one measure they can take to address the issue of low wages in our city,” Sardana said.
Public institutions, however, are not affected by the this wage increase. Employees at Georgia State will not be impacted by the wage increase.
“We are not [a part of] Atlanta; we’re an institution, so it’s not reflecting us,” a spokesperson for the Georgia State Payroll Office said.
Jenna Garland, Press secretary for the Mayor’s Office of Communication, echoed this same point. Georgia State and other institutions under the University System of Georgia are considered separate entities from the CIty of Atlanta.
“Only employees of the city of Atlanta will receive the pay raise,” Garland said. “The USG is a separate government entity.”
Journalism major Ajaysa Baker is employed by the university dining hall at Piedmont Central and is paid above the minimum wage of the state. She said her workload alone is enough cause for her to have her wages increased from $8.50, but she doesn’t plan on complaining to her superiors about her wages.
“It would be nice to get paid more, but at this point, it is what it is,” Baker said.
Sardana said Jobs with Justice is open to see universities and private sector employers implement a pay raise for their employees working for minimum wage.
“We want to see institutions…taking on higher wages as a mandate of their own,” Sardana said.