The raise to $10.10 per hour was made in support of President Obama's wage increase initiative.
This week, New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon demonstrated his support for President Obama’s minimum wage initiative by officially increasing the minimum wage for county employees.
Signed on Tuesday afternoon, Executive Order 20-14-09 raises the county minimum wage to $10.10, which is $2.85 above the federally mandated $7.25 an hour.
Gordon’s move comes just weeks after Gov. Jack Markell signed legislation increasing the Delaware statewide minimum wage to $7.75 in 2014, with another $.50 increase slated for 2015.
Gordon said that the increase was more a statement about the inequity of salaries across the country, with the current national average equating to a roughly $15,000 annual salary.
“Imagine trying to raise a family on $15,000 a year,” Gordon said. “It’s really gotten out of hand … anyone who has a job today shouldn’t be living in poverty.”
Gordon’s increase equates to a roughly $5,900 increase for a full-time employee working 40-hours per week.
New Castle County Council President Chris Bullock said that the increase would greatly benefit numerous county employees, adding that it’s necessary to be aware of the growing “working poor” category of residents.
“The economy is tough – it’s off and on, hot and cold – but this will help our people in New Castle County experience the American Dream,” he said.
Councilman Jea Street, 10th District, said that a higher pay rate was a matter of fundamental fairness.
“When you ask for work you should pay an appropriate wage, and we’re not doing that right now,” Street said.
He added that he hoped companies would follow suit and increase wages for their workers as well.
“The county executive is showing very bold leadership,” said Councilman Penrose Hollins, 4th District. “It’s making me feel proud to be a part of this government.”
Councilman George Smiley, 7th District, said that he’s complained about county employee salaries for the entire nine years he’s been a part of county government, and that Gordon’s move is a step in the right direction.
Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick, 3rd District, said she is fine with the concept, provided it is addressed in the upcoming budget cycle.
Gordon also said he hoped to see other governments and companies take a similar tack, in an effort to address the growing nationwide crisis that is seeing the middle class shrink to nothing.
“If the poor get hungry, they’re going to eat the rich,” Gordon said. “It’s got to stop, and it’s going to stop here in New Castle County.”
State Sen. Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, said that there is nothing “magical” about the $10.10 figure, except it is what Democrats are pushing as they approach the 2014 elections.
He also said that such an increase could negatively affect many businesses, resulting in fewer employees.
“These private businesses don't have the power to tax,” he said. “Unlike government, they are required to entice their customers on a daily basis to generate sales and revenue. Simply showing up doesn't get it done for them.”
For those county employees currently earning minimum wage, Gordon’s order will raise the minimum hourly wage to $10.10 for all but four positions. Those four positions will require council action to amend. Until then, those positions will be raised to $9 per hour, the top of the current pay scale.
The changes will go into effect July 1.