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City of Philadelphia Sub-Contractor Minimum Wage and Benefits Ordinance Question, Proposition 1 (May 2014)

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A City of Philadelphia Sub-Contractor Minimum Wage and Benefits Ordinance ballot question was on the May 20, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where it was overwhelmingly approved.

A group called Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER) successfully lobbied the Philadelphia city council to put Proposition 1 on the May 20, 2014, election ballot, seeking to pass on the minimum wage required for city contracts to city subcontractors as well. This minimum wage was $10.88 per hour prior to May 6, 2014, but was set to increase to $12 per hour by an executive order from Mayor Michael Nutter. The measure, which was approved, also boosted benefits for all employees of city subcontractors. This included many of the approximately 141,000 employees at the Philadelphia International Airport.[1]

Prior to the approval of Question 1, there was already an ordinance in force which required a minimum wage of $10.88 for direct contractors of the city. The May referendum sought to extend this law to close a loop hole for subcontractors hired out by direct contractors. The situation prior to the approval of Question 1 allowed many airport employees to remain at an average wage of $7.85 per hour. Mayor Michael Nutter, on May 6, 2014, signed an executive order in advance of the Question 1 vote which not only required that the city employee minimum wage be passed on to subcontractors, but also boosted this wage to $12 per hour effective on January 1, 2015.[1][2]

Election results

Question 1
Approveda Yes 94,128 75.51%
Election results from Philadelphia City Elections Office


On May 6, 2014, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter issued an executive order requiring all companies with city contracts, including subcontractors, to start paying $12 per hour starting on January 1, 2015. The order also required that subcontractors be paid the same minimum wage as direct city contractors. Although this executive order had the same objective as Proposition 1, it was not a legislative change. Supporters of Prop. 1 argued that it was still essential for voters to approve the measure in order to make the mayor's order permanent.[3]

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot was:

Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to confirm Council’s power to enact provisions Council considers necessary or appropriate to implement a Minimum Wage and Benefits Ordinance, including, but not limited to, provisions mandating that minimum wage and benefits requirements be passed along to subcontractors on City contracts and subrecipients of City financial assistance, and provisions authorizing the granting and revocation of waivers, with debarment as a potential penalty for violation of such provisions?[4][5]

Full text

The full text of the enacted changes to the charter is below:

Note: Bold italics indicates matter added by these amendments. Strikethrough indicates matter deleted by these amendments.



The Council - Its Election, Organization, Powers and Duties



Section 2-309. Leases and Contracts.

(5) For purposes of this subsection, "Minimum Wage and Benefits Ordinance" means an ordinance that requires the City, those who contract with the City, and/or recipients of City financial assistance to provide their employees with a minimum level of pay and benefits, and/or that provides that certain or all City contracts include provisions mandating compliance with such a requirement, and that may include such other provisions as Council considers necessary or appropriate to accomplish the purposes of such an ordinance, including, but not limited to, provisions that require those who contract with the City or are recipients of City financial assistance to pass along the requirements of such an ordinance to subcontractors (at any tier) and subrecipients (at any tier); and provisions that authorize the granting and revocation of waivers from any or all of the requirements of such an ordinance. Council's power to enact Minimum Wage and Benefits Ordinances is hereby confirmed, as is Council's power to ordain that a contractor or recipient of City financial assistance, or any subcontractor (at any tier) or subrecipient (at any tier), may, after notice and hearing, be debarred from doing business with the City or receiving City financial assistance for a specified period of time for failure to comply with such requirement. Council may not ordain differing minimum levels of pay and benefits for different categories of covered City employees. Notwithstanding any other provision of the Charter, An an ordinance providing for such debarment, and an ordinance providing for the granting and revocation of waivers, may specify procedures for such debarments and waivers by conferring powers and duties on existing City agencies, including Council, or by creating new agencies for such purposes.[4][5]


Rev. Cean James with minimum wage increase advocates; Photo by Kimberly Paynter/WHYY


  • Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER)
  • Reverend Cean James

According to the Yes on One campaign website in support of Proposition 1 the following individuals and organizations supported the measure:[6]


  • 32BJ SEIU
  • ACTION United
  • Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) Philly Chapter
  • Fight for Fifteen PA
  • Fight for Philly
  • Neighborhood Networks
  • New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia
  • Pennsylvania Working Families
  • Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
  • Point Breeze Organizing Committee
  • UFCW Local 1776

Elected Officials

  • Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-2)
  • Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-7)
  • Sen. Larry Farnese (D-1)
  • Councilman Mark Squilla
  • Councilman Kenyatta Johnson
  • Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell
  • Councilman Curtis Jones
  • Councilman Darrell Clarke
  • Councilman Bobby Henon
  • Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez
  • Councilwoman Cindy Bass
  • Councilwoman Marian Tasco
  • Councilman Brian O’Neill
  • Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown
  • Councilman James Kenney
  • Councilman Wilson Goode
  • Councilman William Greenlee
  • Councilman Dennis O’Brian
  • Councilman David Oh

Religious Organizations

  • Arch Street United Methodist Church (Center City)
  • Bright Hope Baptist Church (North Philadelphia)
  • Calvary/St. Augustine Episcopal Church (Mantua)
  • Calvary United Methodist Church (Southwest Philadelphia)
  • Chestnut Hill United Church (Chestnut Hill)
  • Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir/Heart of the City (Center City)
  • Congregation Rodeph Shalom (Spring Garden/North Philadelphia)
  • Cookman Beloved Baptist Church (North Philadelphia)
  • Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Church (South Philadelphia)
  • Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia (Center City)
  • Evangel Chapel (North Philadelphia)
  • Grace Christian Fellowship (Southwest Philadelphia)
  • Grace Epiphany Episcopal Church (Mt. Airy)
  • Greater Vision Church (Olney, PA)
  • Harold O. Davis Baptist (Logan)
  • Holy Innocents Catholic Church (Juniata Park)
  • Kol Tzedek Synagogue (Southwest Philadelphia)
  • Living Water United Church of Christ (North Philadelphia)
  • Masjidullah, Inc. (West Oak Lane)
  • Mishkan Shalom (Roxborough)
  • Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (Center City)
  • New Vision United Methodist Church (Logan)
  • New Life Ministries (South Philadelphia)
  • Old First Reformed United Church of Christ (Center City)
  • Philadelphia Emerging Religious Leaders
  • Philadelphia Praise Center (South Philadelphia)
  • P’Nai Or (Mt. Airy)
  • Prince of Peace Lutheran (Lawncrest/Northeast)
  • Second Baptist Church of Germantown (Germantown)
  • Society Hill Synagogue (Center City)
  • St. Benedict’s Catholic Church (East Germantown)
  • St. Malachy’s Catholic Church (North Philadelphia)
  • St. Martin‐in‐the‐Fields Episcopal Church (Chestnut Hill)
  • St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (Center City)
  • St. Rita of Cascia Catholic Church (South Philadelphia)
  • St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church (Germantown)
  • St. Paul Baptist Church (North Philadelphia)
  • Sweet Union Baptist Church (West Philadelphia)
  • Tikkun Olam Chavurah (Germantown)
  • West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship (Southwest Philadelphia)
  • Woodcrest United Church of Christ (Cedarbrook)

Arguments in favor

  • Melanie DeBouise, an advocate working with POWER, said, "Right now there is a low-bid contracting system at the airport for airline-subcontracted workers. Companies compete based on price alone. They compete without having to adhere to wage, benefit, training or equipment standards. Low wages, high turnover and lack of training requirements are the norm.”[1]
  • Reverend Cean James, a leader in the POWER movement and an advocate for the minimum wage measure, explained that underpaid airport employees provided an important focus and motivation to the minimum wage increase effort. He said, "There were people that were making $5.75 or $6 an hour. That really, really became problematic for us." He also told a Ballotpedia staff writer that one very sad part of the situation at the airport prior to the approval of this measure was that certain companies actually encouraged workers to seek public welfare while employing them full time, showing full awareness of the inadequacy of the wages given to many employees.[7][2]


Arguments against

Some city officials expressed the opinion that the approval of the referendum and the extension of a higher minimum wage and better benefits to subcontracted employees would likely restrict competition and cause a decline in the number of available airport jobs.[2]

Similar measures


Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Las Cruces Minimum Wage Increase Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Washington D.C. Minimum Wage Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Seattle $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Increase Veto Referendum (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Seattle $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Initiative (November 2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of San Francisco Minimum Wage Act of 2014 Initiative (November 2014)
Approveda Philadelphia Minimum Wage Ordinance, Proposition 1 (May 2014)
Approveda City of Chicago $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Referendum (March 2014)
Approveda SeaTac "Good Jobs Initiative", Proposition 1 (November 2013)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Richmond Minimum Wage Increase Ballot Question (November 2014)


Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot California Minimum Wage Supplement for Home Health Workers (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Idaho Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Massachusetts Minimum Wage Increase Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Michigan Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Missouri Minimum Wage Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot New Mexico Minimum Wage Amendment (2014)

See also

External links

Suggest a link

Basic information


Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Metro, "Minimum wage standards expanded, but not to airport subcontractors," February 28, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Newsworks, "Will PHL follow suit of SeaTac for higher airport pay?," accessed December 17, 2013
  3. Philadelphia Metro, "Nutter ‘couldn’t wait’ on city contractor’s living wage increase," May 7, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 Provided from source at Philadelphia Chief Clerk's office, accessed December 17, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. Yes on One website, accessed May 21, 2014
  7. Ballotpedia Staff Writer Josh Altic interview with Rev. Cean James, December 17, 2014