The City of Ithaca’s Common Council joined with the Town of Ithaca and the Tompkins County Legislature to support a living wage for all workers in the county by a unanimous vote Wednesday.
The event attracted a large turnout from residents of Tompkins County, as 30 to 40 concerned citizens migrated from a rally outside to the City Hall meeting to voice their support for the resolution.
During an almost hour-long public comment section at the meeting, many of the attendees spoke out in support of a living wage, citing personal experiences, nationwide trends and economic studies.
“This is the right moment to push,” according to Bill Goldsmith of the board of public works. Goldsmith cited a letter to President Barack Obama from 600 economists, including seven Nobel Prize winners, which claims increases in the minimum wage have little or no negative effect on unemployment.
A worker at the local recycling plant who fought for a living wage and won, spoke out at the council meeting on behalf of others who are not as fortunate.
“Everybody else is still fighting to live, fighting to eat, fighting to pay bills, fighting to have a place to live, and there’s nobody really speaking for them,” the worker said. “We speak for everybody, everybody here in Tompkins County.”
The council voted unanimously to support the resolution, saying “We are in support of the living wage as the minimum wage across Tompkins County.”
To actually implement a living wage, Tompkins County would need to pass a “home-rule” request to New York state asking for the authority to enact a local minimum wage. In order to further this goal, a copy of the resolution will be forwarded to the Tompkins County Legislature, the Tompkins County Council of Governments, New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca), New York State Senator Thomas O’Mara (R-Big Flats) and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
However, not everyone in attendance was in favor of the resolution. Many attendees cited the negative impact such a measure could have on small businesses in Ithaca.
One mother cited her son’s recent purchase of an ice company. While she said he pays more than the minimum wage, she stressed that a wage as high at 15 dollars an hour could increase costs such as workers compensation, which is based on the amount paid to employees.
“It’s a local company, if the company was not able to continue it would have to be a national company that would have to come in to do ice deliveries,” she said. “Be aware that [this policy] has local impact as well.”
The council said the movement for a living wage is based in an understanding of the value of work and hopes that a higher minimum wage could increase standard of living for struggling citizens and families.
“It is one of our most cherished values that there is dignity in work, and where raising incomes is critical [is] in providing economic mobility and opportunity for working families,” the council stated.