by Andrew Crisp
Introductory pay for the City of Boise's lowest-paid employees received a boost this week.
Their pay was raised following a new policy implemented by City Council members. For a single, full-time, year-round employee with no children, compensation of $10.37 per hour, or $21,566 per year, was determined as the new baseline.
"It’s a very bottom for the basic necessities of food, housing, transportation, health care—the very bottom of what you could use to support yourself with one 40-hour per week job," said Councilman T.J. Thomson.
Thomson said the living wage policy had been a goal beginning early in his campaign for City Council. He made the announcement July 24, though with little fanfare. It came in the form of an email and Facebook post he sent out that evening.
"I didn’t want to boast that I was the sole person," explained Thomson. "It takes a council to bolster an idea. I wanted to share the credit in terms of getting this passed; everyone as a majority ended up signing onto this."
The living wage was based on a study commissioned by the city from the Boise State Economics Department, which identified the costs of basic necessities. Wages calculated represented basics, without government subsidy and lacking quality of life conveniences. Boise is the first city in Idaho to implement such a policy, said Thomson.
He also said that it would make city government jobs more competitive, and he hopes that leading by example might push more local businesses to implement living-wage policies.
"I hope so," he said. "I’m going to get this study out there so it can be used. With the understanding that every company is concerned with the bottom line, they may not want to raise salaries. But we’ll walk the walk and talk the talk and serve as the model."
The new policy brings low-level city employees such as janitorial, office and maintenance staff up to the $10.37 per-hour mark. Thomson said the city's lowest-paid workers were near the $8-$9 range previously. But he said that the long-term effects of the change made it the right thing to do.
Thomson said he would also like to see the city adopt a policy that would reward businesses contracted with it who supply their employees with living wages.