by Kristina Goetz
An estimated 31,300 workers in Lexington who would otherwise make less than $10.10 an hour will have higher wages once the newly-passed minimum wage ordinance — the second such local law in Kentucky and the third in the South — is fully implemented in 2018.
In addition to the workers who will directly benefit, another 9,700 who make slightly above $10.10 an hour could also receive a small raise when wage scales are adjusted up, based on the experience of minimum wage increases elsewhere.
While the final ordinance didn’t include an increase in the $2.13 an hour that tipped workers receive, as originally proposed, tipped workers are still affected by the new law because it requires that their total wages including tips equal at least $10.10 an hour. Under previous law, wages only had to total $7.25.
Of the workers directly affected, an estimated 90 percent are at least 20 years old, and more are over the age of 50 than are teenagers. Fifty-seven percent are women, 54 percent work full-time and 26 percent have a child in the household.
Seventy-six percent of those workers with family income below the poverty line will benefit. Thirty-eight percent of affected workers are employed in either restaurants and food services or retail trade. See the table below for more detail.
The final ordinance didn’t include an adjustment based on cost of living after it’s fully phased in, so more work will be needed in the future to ensure the value of the minimum wage doesn’t erode. But the increase is a tremendous victory for workers in Lexington and elevates the city as a leader in the state and the region.
Source: Kentucky Center for Economic Policy analysis of American Community Survey data. See full report for more.
by Deborah Yetter
“We applaud this historic move by Lexington, the first city in Kentucky to raise their minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, to help more than 30,000 workers who struggle with providing for basic needs,” Kenny Colston, communications director for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said. “With now higher minimum wages in both Louisville and Lexington, we encourage state lawmakers, and other counties and institutions across Kentucky, to take up increasing the minimum wage so more Kentuckians can make ends meet.”
Lexington is well-known for a lot of things, namely:
▪ Being the “Horse Capital of the World;”
▪ Being a college town;
▪ As a top community for retirement (according to CNN and Forbes);
And as a top community for jobs (Forbes, again). It has the opportunity to add one more bullet to that list – being a city that supports workers and their families – when the Urban County Council votes Thursday night on an ordinance that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by July 1, 2018.
If passed – and hopefully it will be – more than 31,000 people who currently make less than $10.10 an hour will benefit. More than 57 percent of those who benefit are women and more than 75 percent are working adults between the ages of 20 and 49.
The council has debated the minimum wage increase since March, looking at numerous studies, hearing directly from low-wage workers, as well as business owners and advocacy groups. Arguments for and against an increase have been dissected and discussed for nearly nine months. As a result of that process, the current ordinance is a strong compromise the majority of the council supports.
The last thing Lexington needs is another study on the minimum wage proposal, yet that’s exactly what opponents of the legislation have suggested. Lexington shouldn’t take a page from Frankfort and Washington D.C. and put off important progress for the sake of another study which will show what we already know: the current minimum wage has eroded badly and needs an update.
Instead, the city should be a leader. Becoming the first city in Kentucky to have a $10.10 minimum wage shows Lexington values its people, no matter their line of work. It shows Lexington is willing to pay a fair wage for a fair day’s work.
It also shows Lexington understands when workers have more money in their pockets to spend on the basics, the city’s economy as a whole benefits. When more of the jobs are economy-boosting rather than economy-busting, everyone is better off.
There’s been a lot of distraction from the goal of raising Lexington’s minimum wage. Thankfully, the time for more distractions is over. A “yes” vote shows that Lexington wants to be known as a city that prospers by taking care of its own.