Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


A Palousitics reader and I were talking last weekend at the Lentil Festival, and we agreed that next Moscow election cycle, Pullman residents should contribute generously to Linda Pall's city council reelection campaign, as well as Aaron Ament's, John Dickinson's and Bob Stout's campaigns!

Moscow's decades-long retail dominance on the Palouse has unraveled so quickly in the last few months, you could almost believe that some Karl Rovian political machinations from Pullman were the cause. Alas, 'tis no grand conspiracy to blame, just true believers in the bankrupt beliefs of Karl Marx.

The latest thread to unravel for sane businesspeople in Moscow: "living wages." From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Moscow adopts living wage

City of Moscow employees and those who contract with the city can now expect to earn at least $10.25 an hour.

The Moscow City Council passed a resolution Monday night that ensured full-time city employees be paid a so-called living wage. The wage also applies to employees of businesses with city contracts worth $25,000 or more that employ more than 10 people.

The lowest-paid, full-time city worker earns $10.75 an hour.

“We want to make sure no one working for the city is paid so little that they can’t support themselves or a family,” Councilwoman Linda Pall said. “We want to make sure your tax dollars and other city revenue is not used to unintentionally exploit our workers in the city of Moscow.”

Councilman Bob Stout said Moscow is the first city in the state to enact a living wage.

“The minimum wage in Idaho is embarrassingly low,” he said. “We should be combatting negative social problems in the community.”

Councilman Bill Lambert said he thought there was a lot of merit to the living wage, but he didn’t think it was needed.

“Our city employees already make a living wage,” he said. “I don’t think the municipality should dictate what contracting employees do.”

Councilman John Weber agreed.

“My problem with the resolution is telling another employer within the city what they are going to pay their employees,” he said.

Weber said the city will end up paying more for services if companies are required to pay a living wage.

Janitorial services that contract with the city likely would have to increase employee wages, but many contracting companies, like the Idaho Transportation Department, already pay their workers a living wage, Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney said.

Steve Busch, president of Greater Moscow Alliance, said the group opposes the Council’s decision.

“It’s unnecessary for local government to establish free market wages,” he said. “It looks like a feel-good measure.”

He said the decision might make Moscow appear even more unfriendly to businesses that might want to locate here, and if the Council is willing to pass this resolution, he wouldn’t be surprised to see a citywide living-wage ordinance come up in the future.

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