By Christina Shea
In early June, the Irvine City Council, on a 4-1 vote, repealed a 2007 ordinance establishing a “living wage.”
Out of the hundreds of contracts entered into by the city, this ordinance covered 15 contracts, and required those employers to pay their workers a minimum of $10.82 per hour, and as much as $13.50.
Additionally, the ordinance didn’t apply solely to employees working in Irvine. It required the employers to pay “living wages” to all their employees, working throughout Orange County.
A hypothetical example: Acme Janitorial service, a regional company, cleans government buildings. They compete and win Irvine’s contract to clean City Hall. Acme is then required by this ordinance to pay this wage not only to their Irvine employees but to all their employees, companywide, throughout O.C.
Hence, all of Acme Janitorial employees are paid Irvine’s “living wage,” subsidized by our taxpayers. It is troubling, as no other city in Orange County requires a “living wage.” Therefore, Irvine citizens were subsidizing the cost to provide higher wages to all these employees doing work in other cities. This, in my opinion, is ethically wrong.
Because of the terms of the ordinance, it has been estimated that Irvine taxpayers paid an additional $1.5 million a year for contract services, as employers would bump up their bids to cover the cost to pay all employees they had working for them in the county. Over the approximate eight years that the ordinance was effective, that totals about $12 million.
Recently, in one contract alone, an otherwise-qualified contractor asked to withdraw his bid because it would cost an additional $100,000 to provide for this requirement.
When qualified bidders withdraw, or local business can’t compete, both our taxpayers and local employees are hurt.
The Register published a story July 28 headlined “Irvine’s faith leaders want city to revive living-wage law.” In it, the Rev. Paul Telstra of Irvine United Congregational Church and other Orange County religious leaders called for the City Council to reinstate the ordinance.
While Thomas Jefferson and James Madison correctly warned that our fledgling republic should avoid the blending of organized religion and government, its actually refreshing to me the clergy took the time to weigh in on civic issues.
However, I would suggest, before they dip their toes into the waters of public policy, they contact council members to familiarize themselves with the facts.
I maintain regular office hours, so I am always available to talk about any policy the city implements or proposes.
In my view, the clergy’s concern about Irvine issues would be better directed towards the squandering of $250 million wasted at the Great Park these past many years. Imagine how many jobs, and good wages, we could have created.
I consider myself a compassionate person who will lend a hand to many who are struggling. But, I also take very seriously my fiduciary responsibility to our residents and taxpayers.