Inspired by wage-hike victories in New York and Los Angeles, Atlanta officials Wednesday resurrected last year’s legislative push for a $15 minimum wage for tens of thousands of fast food, home health, child care and restaurant workers.
The prospects, though, remain dim in the conservative General Assembly.
Elected officials nonetheless convened a “wage board” at the capitol to hear testimony from more than a dozen low-wage workers struggling to survive on salaries that mostly begin at $7.25 an hour. They spoke of unpaid bills, lack of health insurance, the embarrassing need for food stamps and Christmas presents never bought.
“Fifteen dollars would allow me to purchase health insurance and pay my bills. I haven’t had a mammogram in five years. I’ve never had a Pap smear,” testified Latonya Allen, a home health worker in Stockbridge who makes $9.50 an hour. “It’s not right. It’s not fair. It’s in the wage board’s power to fix that (and) to see that we make a living wage.”
Atlanta’s wage board packs no regulatory weight. Georgia Sen. Vincent Fort and Rep. Dewey McClain, Democrats from Atlanta and Lawrenceville, respectively, vowed to carry legislation in the upcoming legislative session seeking to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Fort also said he’d introduce legislation requiring low-wage employers to publicly list employees who receive public assistance, as well as require employers to pay a fee to defray Medicaid and food stamp costs.
He wouldn’t predict the bills’ chances of becoming law. Rep. McClain’s bill (HB 8) didn’t make it out of committee last year. Its prospects haven’t much improved in the the Republican-dominated legislature.
Conservatives say mandated wage increases hurt job creation and the economy. The General Assembly also prohibits municipalities from unilaterally raising the minimum wage.
Local organizers, backed by unions, say the $15 wage surge in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle boosts chances of a wage rise in Georgia.