An ordinance passed by the Santa Barbara City Council Tuesday night will require companies contracting with the city to raise the wages they pay their workers by up to six dollars.
The Santa Barbara Living Wage Ordinance passed by a vote of 5-2 at the Tuesday night City Council meeting, with Councilmembers Brian Barnwell and Roger Horton opposing the measure. The measure will raise wages to $14 an hour for employees who do not receive health benefits, $12 an hour for employees who receive benefits for themselves, and $11 an hour for employees who receive benefits for themselves and their families. The ordinance, which goes into effect in 28 days, will only affect companies working on projects for the city.
Councilmember Das Williams said he thinks the ordinance ensures that employees in Santa Barbara make enough money to support themselves. He said companies contracting with the city will be responsible for absorbing most of the costs of the Living Wage Ordinance and the city will not do business with employers who refuse to pay the living wage.
The council decided to draft the ordinance last March and passed the issue to the City Council Ordinance Committee, which wrote the actual measure. The Finance Committee decided to pass the ordinance back to the council for final approval on Feb. 14.
Williams said studies, including one done by Self-Sufficiency Standard – a group that conducts research on the cost of living in all of California’s counties – show that a living wage will help decrease poverty with very little cost to the city. He said he has been lobbying for a living wage for several years.
“I’ve been working on this issue for five years and I was hoping I wouldn’t be an old man by the time it passed,” Williams said.
Councilmember Iya Falcone said she made the motion to pass the ordinance at the meeting. Falcone said she worked with the city attorney to draft the ordinance and thinks the final draft of the measure will help local workers.
“It will benefit those folks who contract with the city,” Falcone said. “They will earn a little more money and/or receive health benefits that they were not getting.”
Harley Augustino, executive director of People United for Economic Justice Building Leadership Through Organizing (PUEBLO), said his group participated in Santa Barbara for a Living Wage – a coalition of at least 30 groups advocating for the living wage. PUEBLO works to benefit low-income families living in the county.
Augustino said the Living Wage Ordinance puts Santa Barbara in a select group of cities.
“We’re excited that the city council finally decided to stand up for working families and pass one of the highest living wages in the country,” Augustino said. “It’s probably one of the top five.”
Although he is glad the ordinance passed, Williams said he does not think it requires companies to pay a high enough salary. He said he would prefer an hourly wage of $15.40, because then employers would have more reason to give employees health benefits rather than pay them high hourly fees.
“The reason it’s not perfect is because if it was a little higher, there would be enough incentive for employers to offer medical coverage,” Williams said.