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Funding Approved to Support Living Wage at Recycling and Solid Waste Center

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Funding Approved to Support Living Wage at Recycling and Solid Waste Center

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

With considerable praise all around for all those who worked together to make it happen, the Legislature, by unanimous vote allocated $20,000 to support payment of the living wage to contract employees at the County Recycling and Solid Waste Center.  It was the issue wages for contract employees at the Recycling and Solid Waste Center that prompted the County in 2013 to perform an in-depth review of its decade-old Living Wage policy and its level of attainment, as applied to County contracts.

Casella Waste Systems, Inc., which operates the Recycling and Solid Waste Center under a ten-year contract with the County, has committed to pay the living wage to its employees, beginning this year.  The Legislature allocated $20,000 in supplemental funding to the 2015 Solid Waste Division budget, which will enable workers at the Center to be paid the living wage—funding drawn from the $100,000 in contingent funding set aside to potentially support efforts to increase the level of attainment of the living wage goal by contractors providing services to the County.

The current living wage in Tompkins County, as established by Alternatives Federal Credit Union, is $12.62 per hour if employees receive health insurance coverage and $13.94 if they do not.  Casella has estimated a cost of approximately $105,000 per year to raise the pay of the employees to living wage.  The contractor has agreed to provide additional services to the County, including support for expanded reuse activities.

Facilities and Infrastructure Chair Kathy Luz Herrera credited many members of the Legislature and staff for putting a lot of work into the issue—and many other Legislators echoed those sentiments, crediting Solid Waste Manager Barbara Eckstrom, County Administrator Joe Mareane, and County Attorney Jonathan Wood for pursuing the issue to make it happen.  Eckstrom called the experience one of the most satisfying in her more than two decades of County service, saying she learned to listen and understand what could potentially happen, to achieve benefit for employees, the program, and the community.  Legislator Nate Shinagawa called it a “wonderful moment,” pointing out that the steady work to make this happen shows the quality of leadership in this county to achieve social change.  Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne thanked Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson in being “positively relentless” in bringing the living wage issue before the Legislature.  As part of his remarks to the Legislature before the vote, Tompkins County Workers Center director Pete Meyers voiced his thanks to the Legislature and staff, and also shared recorded words of thanks from Mr. Webb.