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

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

A group called Philadelphans Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER) lobbied the Philadelphia city council to put a referendum on the May 20, 2014, election ballot that, if approved, would enforce a minimum wage of $10.88 per hour and boost benefits for all employees of city subcontractors. This includes many of the approximately 141,000 employees at the Philadelphia International Airport. In early October, POWER was successful and the city council voted unanimously to approve a public vote on the issue.

There is already an ordinance in force which requires this minimum wage for direct contractors of the city. The March referendum seeks to extend this law to close a loop hole for subcontractors hired out by direct contractors. The current situation allows many airport employees to remain at an average wage of $7.85 per hour.[1][2]

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot is:

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.

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?[3]

Full text

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

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

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.



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.[3]


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


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

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, expressed 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 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.[4][2]


Arguments against

Officials from the office of Mayor Michael Nutter have 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

See also

External links

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Basic information


Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 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. 3.0 3.1 Provided from source at Philadelphia Chief Clerk's office, accessed December 17, 2013
  4. Ballotpedia Staff Writer Josh Altic interview with Rev. Cean James, December 17, 2014