November 2015 the Dallas City Council approved a wage increase to $10.37 an hour for all contractors and subcontractors hired by the city. This includes groundkeepers, janitors, and trash collectors. Wages of construction contractors are negotiated separately. To identify a living wage, the City Council used the MIT living wage calculator. The campaign for a living wage began in 2010 when Dallas sanitation workers called for a wage increase. The call came amid a period of budget challenges.
Initial plans had the living wage as part of the city’s bid process. Companies would gain more points with proposals that included a living wage. Needing more information, the measure was initially vetoed, but was eventually passed on a 14-1 vote. All bids are now required to include a living wage of $10.37 per hour. Councilors approved the change stating that, “It was the right thing to do.” The living wage is effective immediately and will be included in contract renewals and all new requests.
Across town, the city’s Independent School District (ISD) is also being asked to use the $10.37/hour estimate to set wages for maintenance and operation employees. On April 13, 2016 the school district increased employee wages in response to pressure to help workers afford the high cost of living in the city of Dallas. This minimum applies to several positions including custodial, food service and parking lot attendants. Previously, base salaries primarily started at $8 an hour.
If ultimately approved, as many as 650 employees will experience an increase in compensation. A concern of school district human resource professionals is the need to ensure that wage increases represent merit. Others comment that living wages are a moral issue. Angela Davis, president of the National Education Association-of Dallas said, “The maintenance and operation employees struggle even more than teachers, and they still have to pay the same rates for health insurance. This will be a welcome increase.” The ISD’s Board of Trustees is set to vote on the plan in June 2016. If approved, the increase will go into effect in the next school year. If enacted, the increase to the district could be between $500,000-$700,000 annually.