In 2006, Tompkins County became a certified living-wage employer, meaning it pays the minimum salary necessary for employees to meet their basic needs. The City of Ithaca will follow this model and become a living-wage employer by Oct. 1.
While the county has given its employees a living wage, its subcontracted employees are not guaranteed the same hourly rate of $12.62. In response, Ithaca community members have been rallying for the assurance that workers will receive a living wage, whether or not they are subcontracted.
Unlike the county, Ithaca College agreed to a campus-wide living wage in 2011 after students demanded these wages for contracted Sodexo employees. However, a living wage does not solve all employee problems. The college cannot control other aspects of Sodexo’s employee policy, such as whether employees work full-time, earn fair overtime pay and receive full benefits.
If the city plans to be a living-wage employer, legislation needs to avoid the subcontracting issues faced by Tompkins County and the college. The city needs to create a policy to ensure that subcontractors and city employees are fairly compensated, or eliminate the use of subcontractors entirely.