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Politics and Government

Syracuse Common Council votes not to support mayor's $15-an-hour minimum wage increase

Tom Magnarelli
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner with Common Councilor Khalid Bey (right).

The Syracuse Common Council voted down a motion supporting Mayor Stephanie Miner’s decision last week to raise the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour. Some Common Council members said there are still too many unanswered questions about the plan.

For now, Miner's administration says the cost of giving the raises to 61 employees can be categorized as "miscellaneous spending" in each affected department's budget, without allocating extra money quite yet. Miner said she's made tough financial decisions for the past six years and she believes it was time to make increasing the minimum wage a priority.

“We don’t believe that people who work full-time should live in poverty," Miner said. "This is one way that we can take an act that is consistent with those believes.”

The total cost will add up to about $220,000 a year.

Three Common Council members voted against the proposal, including Councilor Jake Barrett. Barrett said he has taken part in many difficult labor negotiations and a quick fix like this will have negative repercussions for future negotiations.

“Does everybody need a raise? Yes. Can the city afford it? No," Barrett said. "This very generous act by the administration, which is sorely needed, is a bad precedent for other negotiations.”

Councilor Kathleen Joy also voted against it.

"Let's see where the money's coming from, let's see what the impact is going to be on our collective bargaining agreements," Joy said. "We have to make sure that we're not opening the door to something where this is an increase, tomorrow it might be a decrease outside of the collective bargaining. We certainly can't have that either."

The Department of Public Works is likely to be most affected when they hire temporary workers in the spring. Other departments can absorb the costs because their wages are already close to $15 an hour. One possibility raised at the council meeting is using parking garage revenue to help pay for the raises. City employees are scheduled to being getting the raise on November 4.