Chairman Wilson and members of the Living Wage and Benefits Committee, I’m Fred Wright, President of Local 1739 of AFSCME District Council 47.

I’m here today to talk about the living wage waivers that were indicated in your quarterly waiver data report for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

I am especially interested in JEVS Human Services, whose waiver reason was collective bargaining; Temple University, whose reason was collective bargaining; and Special People in the Northeast, whose reason was hardship. Our union represents workers at these entities.

One of your stated goals for 2014 was focusing on how the awarding and renewing of waivers could be improved.

I would submit that there is a need to focus on a more detailed explanation from those receiving waivers about their rationale for them.

I would recommend that some form of legislation be introduced in City Council, which would allow for the review of this waiver process by city council.  

The report also raises a few questions, that I believe need clarification.

Would someone explain why the Managing Director’s Office is the appropriate entity in government being recommended to oversee this process?  

What have been the criteria, investigation and standards used by the Office of Labor Standards in determining the veracity of the claims of hardship and best interest of the city.

With the cost of living rising, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for people to pay their bills. Recent advertisements in local media suggest that even some full-time workers on the City payroll could use a raise and step increases in order to move out of poverty. 

This legislation, if properly enforced would help some workers and their families’ better cope with the more challenging economic conditions. 

I am not insensitive to the needs of many nonprofits with cutbacks in funding from the state and federal government. However, I am concerned about the ability of the workers to adequately take care of their financial responsibilities.

Some of these workers are making below the minimum wage

I ask you, is this fair? These workers are facing real hardships due to the escalating cost of living, while their wages are not sufficient to meet some of their family’s basic needs. There is a decreasing amount of public assistance to supplement their low income.  There must be some balance here and not just a “yessir-boss” every time the employer wants their financial statements balanced on the backs of working class families.