Tucson considering raising minimum wage for city workers

$15 per hour minimum wage, Tucson city leaders begin discussion

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Tucson will begin discussions whether to raise its lowest paid workers to $15 an hour minimum wage.

According to a city memo, 894 city workers are paid less than that.

Still, annual bonuses and holiday pay bring many fairly close to the $30,000 wage that a $15 minimum wage would bring.

Still, $15 an hour is symbolic.

"Nationally, $15 an hour was kind of the mantra," said Ward 2 Council Member Paul Cunningham. "The fight for 15."

That is still the mantra heard from coast to coast as workers protest and petition for higher wages.

Many cities, as well as states like California, New York and Massachusetts, have increased their wages which will phase in to $15 over a period of years.

Cunningham is one of three council members who signed a memo urging the conversation towards raising the minimum wage for city workers.

The others are Ward 1 Council Member Regina Romero and Ward 5 Council Member Richard Fimbres.

"We thought we'd look at it and just discuss what that would look like for Tucson," Cunningham said. "I think we're going to take a look at the process and see where it takes us."

The Pima Area Labor Foundation is also holding talks on a proposal to raise the minimum wage in the private sector to $15 but has not taken a position yet.

Whether the city moves in that direction will depend on the impact on the city budget, which has been improving for the past two years.

It gives the city a bit of wiggle room to look at other needs and areas of concern.

Worker retention is one of those. Paying a higher wage will help retain workers.

But city leaders want to move slowly.

"I don't think it's going to be a situation where we're going to bust up the budget in one year or anything like that," he said. "But I think phasing it in over the next three or four years is a good goal to have."

And he added, “It’s something we should do.”

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.