The Neighborhood & Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebration Committee held a public hearing on September 8, 2015 at 6:10 p.m. in the Sullivan Chamber.
The purpose of the hearing was to discuss implementing a minimum wage of $15.00 an hour.
Present at the hearing were Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen, Chair of the Committee, Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Councillor Craig Kelley, Councillor Marc McGovern, Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager, Nancy Glowa, City Solicitor, Dan Schwartz, Aide to Councillor Mazen, Neal Alpert, Aide to Councillor Simmons, Wil Durbin, Aide to Councillor Kelley, Maritza Merino, Aide to Vice Mayor Benzan and Paula M. Crane, Deputy City Clerk.
Also present at the hearing were Robert Winters, Shaun Kennedy, Dazza Greenwood, Rebecca Lopez, Steve Kerlin, Will Beman, Angela Douyon, Marie Charles, Manjo Paddy, Abdu Salem, Sudeep Yadav, Hassan Asad, James Williamson, Dave Slaney, Brennan Carroll, Tony Smith, Lee Ferris, Jenna Benson, Erica Miranda, Naomi Zingman Daniels, Nora Dugree, Mackinley Celestin, and Wes McEnany.
Councillor Mazen gave an overview of the agenda for the meeting (Attachment A). He stated that this is a start. Anyone who is concerned that it is anything other than a start can lay those fears to rest. He stated that this is a start to raise procedural questions and a start for a more comprehensive wage justice in the city. It is about dignity, health and well-being of workers. He stated that there is no attendee against a fair minimum wage. He stated that there will be a lot of interim meetings to understand how to get to a fair minimum wage. He stated that in places that already have a $15 minimum wage or have just passed such measures, many had fears when they jumped from $9 to $12. Economically the research shows there is no substantial increase in unemployment when raising the minimum wage-when done so in line with half the area median wage. He stated that there is an exciting but untested positive and upside due to workers having more pay and there is a lack of downside. He stated that there are laws on the state level that are exciting and supportive of this work. He stated that there will be plenty of time to talk about FAQs.
Opened public comment at 6:16 p.m.
Rebecca Lopez, Operations Manager of The Just Crust, spoke on behalf of the owner. She thanked the COC for support and encouragement of its mission. She stated that they believe workers should earn a fair wage and reward their hard work.
Steve Kerlin, Zani Restaurant, stated that this would affect his restaurant. Tipped employees are averaging well above 15 per hour. He stated that his employees would average $73,000 per year at the higher minimum wage. He stated that when they opened they were on level playing field. They looked at other locations and wanted to come to Cambridge. He stated that when someone comes into work if required to start at 15 per hour, that money has to come from somewhere. He stated that the majority of his staff does not live in Cambridge. When we increase this fee, there are taxes and payroll fees that will increase. He stated that small independent businesses run on small margin with high risk to open. He stated that every one of their employees is paid more than the current minimum wage. He stated that they offer benefits such as meal discounts and tuition reimbursement, to take care of their workers. Servers average 20 per hour in tips without pay, anyway.
Will Beman stated that if the minimum wage were the same today that it was in 1968, adjusted for inflation and increased in worker productivity, it would be at least $15 per hour. He stated that the majority of jobs affected are in the service industry so they are not in danger of being outsourced, and because they are in competition with each other, a higher wage would likely come out of corporate profits rather than as an added cost passed down to customers. He stated that taxpayers right now are subsidizing corporate employers who choose to pay their workers poverty wages in the form of supplemental aid programs. .
Angela Douyon, Dunkin Donuts on Dana and Mass, stated that $15 per hour could make a big change in her life. She stated that $9 per hour does not cut it. She stated that it would be appreciated if the minimum wage could increase. She stated that CEO makes a lot of money and this type of wage increase would be helpful for those who cannot afford less.
Councillor Mazen stated that the CEO of Dunkin Donuts made $22 million last year.
Wid stated that he works at Panera and makes $9.50 per hour. There is no way that he can afford to live at all on such a wage, especially if he is not getting 40 hours. He stated his support for $15 minimum wage.
Jasmin stated that she works at Dunkin Donuts. She works for $9.50. She stated her support for a $15 minimum wage.
Frantz Denis stated that he works at Dunkin Donuts. He stated that it is very hard to care for himself and pay bills while taking care of his family. He stated that he is a student as well. He asked the committee to increase the minimum wage to $15.00.
Marie Charles, Malden, stated that she works for $11.11. It is not enough because she has 5 children. She does not have enough money to pay her bills. She stated that she cannot afford to live alone. She would like $15 please. She serves the elderly in Cambridge.
Abdu Salam, Cambridge, stated that he has worked for Eastern Security for 4 years. He is paid 9.50 per hour. He stated that all of the employees make 9.50. There are no benefits. He stated $15 would benefit him.
Manjo Pandy stated that she worked at Dunkin Donuts for two years. She makes $9 per hour. She stated that $15 would benefit her family.
Sudeep Yadav, works at Dunkin Donuts at Kendall. He stated that he is paid $9 per hour and it is not enough. He stated that he cannot pay monthly rent. He stated his support for $15.00 per hour.
Hassan Asad stated that he lives at 176 Prospect Street. He stated that the minimum wage should be $16-18 per hour. He commented that he has a Master's degree, and that working for such a low rate depletes his self-worth. He stated that $9-11 does not work, he supports $15.00.
James Williamson, 1000 Jackson Place, stated that he has been strong supporter of raising minimum wage to $15 per hour. He stated that Cambridge has a Living Wage Ordinance which is different from the minimum wage. He stated that there is a calculation and formula. Cambridge comes up with the living wage for the purposes of the ordinance, and that this wage is what is necessary to live in Cambridge. Current living wage in Cambridge is $14.95 per hour. There are a lot of exemptions and waivers allowed but the idea is that if you work with the city or have contracts with the city, you are expected to page a living wage. He stated that his experience is that people who make minimum wage, in his experience, run when they leave at midnight to get on subway to get to place where they can make connection to get home. He stated that these people are getting minimum wage. He stated that Dunkin Donuts is 1/3 publicly traded stock, 1/3 by Bain Capital and 1/3 by the Carlisle Group. He stated that there is no question that entities such as Dunkin Donuts can afford to pay more. He stated that the person who was the chair of the Living Wage Ordinance was the Government Relations person for the COC. He stated that there was an opinion for City Solicitor and the issue is whether Cambridge would have to ask for Home Rule Petition. If all that is required is that Cambridge submit a Home Rule Petition to have the authority to do this, what are we waiting for?
Sam, 286 Franklin Street, stated that he is not against increasing the minimum wage but the question is if raising the minimum wage would help the people and the COC. He believes the answer is no. He stated that if you pay higher wages, you pass it on to customers. He believes you are not helping the consumer in any fashion. It is his opinion that small businesses cannot afford to pay a higher wage. There has to be discussion. He claims that most people who wait on tables are students. These students have money or make money. He stated that we must be practical and do what is right.
Dave Slaney, 237 Norfolk Street, Living Wage Committee, stated that he admires the courage of the participants to come tonight to speak. He stated that the Living Wage Ordinance was passed unanimously in 2000. 3 current councillors were on at that time and voted for the Living Wage Ordinance. He stated that the purpose was to earn an hourly wage that would support a family of 4. The Living Wage is indexed to inflation. It is now at 14.95 and will be above $15 next February. He stated that when the City Council passed the ordinance they were making a clear statement that the city will use its control to ensure that no one working in Cambridge makes less than a living wage. He stated that he does not believe that we were bold enough at the time. Things have changed dramatically in the country. He stated that the key thing is for the City Council to unanimously and strongly state that it is the will of the City Council that anyone working in Cambridge get the Living Wage and communicate the same to the City Manager.
Councillor Mazen thanked Dave Slaney for his remarks and made a note of the wording of his suggested statement of support.
Brennan Carroll, Jamaica Plain, works at a non-profit. He stated that the problem he sees is that people have still been homeless while fully employed. Raising the minimum wage to $15 is a necessity. People are living in shelters while being fully employed. He stated his support for an increase.
Tony Smith works with men who come home from incarceration. He stated that raising the minimum wage to $15 hour is the right thing to do as it relates to public safety. He stated that data shows that reoffending is decreased for those that make a decent wage. He stated that for the sake of personal dignity and city economics, our community should raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Lee Ferris, 269 Norfolk Street, stated that of the people she heard speak, a point that she did not hear made is who is earning minimum wage now. Those folks are not the stereotype that people think of. The majority of them are women who are heads of households and people of color. Many people earning the current minimum wage are people who are already disadvantaged. When thinking about who it benefits, it is important to have good understanding of who that is. That then goes for families that are headed by women with children, a higher wage benefits the child. If there is a possibility of 2 parents earning a minimum wage of $15, then you can start to actually have a functioning household that has money to raise children without public assistance. She stated that it also benefits the state because if a person earns more, they receive less public benefits. She stated that it is a ripple effect. She stated that it is economically beneficial to society as a whole. She stated that people in Cambridge would be happy to know that their coffee is being made by someone who is not impoverished.
Jenna Benson, Dunkin Donuts, stated that she spoke on behalf of a co-worker and stated her support for a $15 minimum wage.
Don stated his support for minimum wage. His message is that there are a lot of people in his neighborhood that share the same concerns.
Erica Miranda, 142 Cherry St, stated that she grew up in Cambridge and she works for Harvard. She stated her hope for the opportunity to raise a family in Cambridge, which is becoming impossible.
Naomi Zingman Daniels stated that sanitary issues are compromised. These are people who may not have job that pays above $9 hour even once they graduate. Most people on minimum wage are heads of household, women and adults, not just teenagers.
Nora Dugree, Central Square, stated that the stories are hard to listen to. Our values are to offer neighbors and community workers a fair wage. She stated that we want to increase parents' abilities to spend more time with their children.
Mackinley Celestin, works in Cambridge and is father of three. He stated that minimum wage of $15 is a good idea. He works very hard for his children and has family in Haiti. He stated that he has been working a minimum wage job for many years.
At this time, approximately 15-20 audience members expressed their support for a $15 minimum wage but chose not to speak individually at this time.
Councillor Mazen stated that people come from all over the world trying to make it in Cambridge, economically. It needs to be noted and known what kind of minimum wage stories abound. This is the working class of our city. Minimum wage workers of all kinds make up much of Cambridge and represents one of the largest economic blocks in the world. He stated his hope that we take into consideration small businesses, and look to the cities that have already passed similar measures as inspiration.
He stated that San Francisco went to $12.5 with carve outs for collective bargaining. San Jose increased minimum wage with collective bargaining carve-outs. Seattle broke out small vs. large businesses. Washington D.C. and Oakland raised the wage to $12.25 recently. New York is also currently looking at raising the wage to $15 for fast food workers. He stated that one of the models for tipped workers allows for a compromise - where tipped workers are only paid $15 an hour by their employer if their tips fail to reach that amount. There are ways to handle this and be fair. He stated that many of the academic and empirical research studies that are taking place are coming to consensus that employment does not falter when cost is passed on to consumers. He stated that when he was living on $10 per day for the live the wage challenge, he did not purchase local goods as he was unable to afford them. The only stores he could go to were chain stores and only bought unhealthy food.
Councillor McGovern thanked all for sharing stories. He stated Mr. Slaney that as part of the NLC, they spent time talking to Seattle about what they did. Cambridge was highlighted for Living Wage Ordinance. He stated that this is the start of the conversation. This is complicated and there are differing legal opinions. When looking at Seattle, they did it quickly (4-5 months for process) but it included stakeholders from all walks of life. They were able to come up with a plan that could hold up to legal challenge and pass with broad support. He stated that if anyone knows about the state legislature, the easiest thing to do is kill a Home Rule Petition. Filing a Home Rule Petition is half-baked and not well thought out. It will make killing the petition easier. The "why wait" response is to make sure that they have something that will stick and not be challenged. He stated that there is a will. The City Council has a long tradition of supporting workers. He stated that within the first 2 months of being in office, all 4 new councillors were walking picket lines with workers at Lesley University and the Doubletree Hotel. He stated that there are many people who are touched by this issue in different ways. Councillor Denise Simmons is a single mother, Vice Mayor Dennis Benzan lived in public housing, and Councillor Marc McGovern works with low income people. He stated that this is towards the goal of getting to a place where minimum wage can be raised. He is Chair of the Mayors Income Insecurity Commission. The COC did a poverty study a year ago. The federal guidelines are irrelevant to Cambridge. He stated that for a family of 4 to live service free (just to pay bills and not be on public assistance) they must make $108,000.00. For a single person it was $58,000. He stated that $15 is not enough in many ways. We have to think about other ways to increase. If $15 takes away other services, that is a problem - must be in combination with Affordable Housing, and universal childcare for example. Just raising to $15 is not enough. The question is finding the road to get there. He is pleased to have the conversation and looks forward to the process.
Councillor Mazen asked if there is a version of Mr. Slaney's proposal regarding the support of $15 minimum wage that could be passed as a motion at the meeting. Councillor McGovern stated that there are 2 motions that are clear and easy which is support senate bills and support to representatives. An appropriate motion to come out of first meeting is to offer that support.
Councillor Mazen stated that the City Manager should begin conversations and form a working group with broad range of stakeholders to work towards raising minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.
Councillor McGovern stated that we need the people sitting around the table.
Councillor Carlone stated that the City Council present in the meeting and also rest of City Council supports this. Both of his parents had 2 jobs. He saw his parents on the weekends. Those were times when money would go further and they were able to make a decent living. That experience still leaves an imprint on him. He stated that pre-primary education and daycare are important to discuss as well. On NPR he heard that a speaker who said "What is the rightful wage?" That is the discussion that will come out of this in the long term. He fully supports the intent coming forth.
Vice Mayor Benzan thanked SEIU and members of community for taking time to be here. This is an important issue. He stated that the income equality gap is significant in the country. Cambridge is committed to making sure that families can provide a roof to live under and food on the table. He stated that he would like clear the obstacles to increase the minimum wage. He asked City Solicitor to give sense of potential difficulty. He stated that conversation was had in June of 2014. There was a Policy Order asking City Manager to look into raising minimum wage by ordinance. They received City Solicitor opinion which stated that it would be incredibly difficult because the City Council did not have the authority to do so, by ordinance.
Councillor Mazen stated that we need to take vote before Councillor Carlone needs to leave. There will be discussion that shows that there is legal potential.
Vice Mayor Benzan suggested that the City Council put together working group made up of community members, small businesses, and employers to look at $15 minimum wage.
Councillor Mazen stated that he would also like there to be a task force under the guidance of the City Manager which would utilize language akin to that of Mr. Slaney's along with research from the City Solicitor defining how to achieve a $15 minimum wage, as well as inclusion of all stakeholders represented in proportion to attendance at the meeting.
Councillor Mazen suggested that a policy order should include wording that the City Manager would assemble and convene a task force with the view in mind of achieving $15 minimum wage in Cambridge with all stakeholders represented proportionately.
Vice Mayor Benzan asked whether or not Ms. Peterson suggests that this work be taken on by City Council or the City administration.
Ms. Peterson stated that the city administration has a full plate. She thinks it is hard for a task force to move on issues without input from City administration. There are a lot of questions that we need answers to. Some of those fundamental questions should be answered first.
Nancy Glowa stated that the question that was asked before was whether there could be a minimum wage ordinance. The response was no. She stated that the policy order did not ask questions regarding if there were other legal means to achieve the goal. She stated the City Solicitor could provide the City Council with the legal framework, which the task force should follow. Ms. Glowa has not looked at other options for implementation. She would welcome hearing theories that may be useful and applicable. They have not looked at questions of doing anything to achieve any other particular goals. This may be helpful.
Councillor Kelley stated that the lawyer in him is worried about definitions. He stated that the order - he thinks that a more defined description of stakeholders is necessary, along with who the minimum wage would be increased for, and a request that the City Manager come back with more useful legal options. He encouraged refinement of what we are asking the City Manager to do.
Vice Mayor Benzan stated that Policy Order from last year and City Solicitor opinion were reviewed by the Economic Development Committee. It was the pleasure of City Council, through Economic Development Committee, to discuss the report. That would provide more guidance. He questioned what the alternative would look like based on the City Manager and City Solicitor's opinions. That is not clear to him. Would like better understanding of authority of City of Cambridge to raise minimum wage.
Councillor Mazen stated that it would be easy to do basic motion of asking for Task Force under City Manager.
Councillor McGovern made the following motions:
ORDERED: That the City Solicitor report back to the City Council, in as timely a fashion as possible, on all available legislative and executive pathways for implementing a $15 minimum wage within the City of Cambridge.
ORDERED: That the City Manager, in conjunction with the Chairs of the Economic Development & University Relations Committee and the Neighborhood and Long-Term Planning Committee, convene a task force of proportionately represented stakeholders to address how best to implement a $15 minimum wage in Cambridge.
The motions passed.
Vice Mayor Benzan stated that on October 13th there will be a hearing at State House to discuss Bill S1022 sponsored by Senator Wolf. This is an effort that will take the entire state and it is important to hear stories.
Councillor Kelley asked about definition for fear that we are asking City Manager an overly broad question which will cause concern for small businesses. He does not know where MSYEP may fit in or local bike shops. He suspects better answer for city staff if we can refine what we are asking.
Councillor Mazen stated that he would start by advancing the tipped worker idea where you have to achieve $15 an hour for workers, including tips, and the difference would need to be made up by employers, is a good starting point for potential carve-outs. He does not know how to regulate an income based threshold for small versus large businesses, given that this was challenged in court when Seattle did so. Could potentially allow for small- or new- business carve out.
Councillor McGovern stated that if you look at the ballot question for paid sick leave, it is any business with under 25 employees that is exempt. He is not sure how they got to that but he anticipates that something like this could be similar. He knows that when this has happened in other places studies were conducted, and we would have act similarly.
Councillor Kelley stated that maybe city staff could let us know if this needs to be refined. We don't want the policy to be too broad but we also don't want to drive small local businesses out of business. He wants to understand how to legally construct something that mitigates the definition.
Councillor Mazen stated that many businesses that rely on minimum wage workers, the prices to consumers don't increase as much as you would think with a higher minimum wage. A wage jump might be as little as a 2% increase in cost of goods sold.
Lisa Peterson stated that carving out small businesses may bring about other questions.
Councillor McGovern recommended that questions be forwarded to the task force.
Councillor Mazen stated that research shows that employers have better employee retention when they pay a higher minimum wage.
Dazza Greenwood, 16 Van Dyne Street, Cambridge, stated that he came because of the importance of minimum wage in Cambridge. He stated that he has read the City Solicitor's opinion and that he used to work for the State on matters of preemption. He stated that this is more complex than he thought. He stated that he wants to underscore Councillor McGovern's motion about the importance of engaging with the City Solicitor to reveal what the issues and options might be, and that we should extend the relationship between client and attorney as far as possible in order to achieve this. He stated that paths may be a good place to go during the stage setting period that is occurring. He stated that he wants to encourage the committee to do the hard work of convening a taskforce of stakeholders and understanding the economics. He stated that legal experts should be invited to take part. He stated that he is proud to see the city take the position that it has.
Vice Mayor Benzan made the following motion:
RESOLVED: That the City Council go on record in support of Senate Bill 1022 and House Bill 1773.
The motion passed.
Councillor Mazen thanked those present for their attendance.
The hearing adjourned at 7:55 p.m.
For the Committee,
Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen, Chair
Neighborhood & Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts & Celebrations Committee