Living Wage Local Spotlight
Location: Dallas, Texas
Living Wage: $11.15 per hour
Minimum Wage: $7.25 per hour
One of the major cities in a state that was grown rapidly over the last three decades, Dallas, Texas makes for an interesting case to begin a discussion of the payment of living wages across America today. Over the last decade, Texas’s third largest city has seen a rapid push to adopt living wage policies from within the public sector. In November of 2015, after three years of deliberation within the City Council, Dallas became one of the cities in the United States to institute a living wage for city contractors. City officials passed a resolution to establish a “wage floor” for all service contracts valued at over $50,000. This resolution requires all parties contracted to provide services on behalf of the city to pay their employees a minimum wage determined by the Dallas Office of Procurement Services. This wage floor is updated annually and corresponds to the local value calculated in the MIT Living Wage Index run by Professor Amy Glasmeier.
Dallas city officials were influenced by similar policies in cities like Austin and New Orleans, but also recognized that the institution of a living wage would have benefits for their constituency. One of the major issues council members were looking to address with this policy is the high rate of labor turnover within the city of Dallas. Proponents of the wage floor believed that its institution would be a major factor in terms of increasing the retention of workers in the area by requiring employers to more adequately compensate contract employees for their work. Council members anticipated that this added compensation would, in turn, make contract employees more inclined to stay in their positions for longer periods of time. Moreover, supporters of the floor expected to see increases in worker productivity and decreased reliance on government services as a result of this policy shift.
Since 2015 the city of Dallas has continued to make strides in paying living wages. In the 2017-2018 fiscal year Dallas’s City Manager included provisions in the annual budget to raise the city’s minimum wage to match the wage floor established for city contractors. This budget was approved by council members on October 1st 2017, establishing a new minimum pay rate of $10.94 per hour and resulting in pay raises for 507 city employees. Should similar provisions be approved in the 2018-2019 budget, then the minimum pay rate will rise to $11.15 per hour with 340 employees receiving raises to meet this floor. Time will tell the true impacts of Dallas’s living wage policy within city limits and beyond. But, for the time being Dallas city officials are confident that they are taking steps in the right direction.