Since 2003, when the-then Tompkins County Living Wage Coalition (now the Tompkins County Workers’ Center/TCWC) worked with the Tompkins County Legislature to pass a Living Wage Resolution, the following things have happened:
- in 2006, the County became one of our first Certified Living Wage Employers (the TCWC was the first organization nationally to start a Living Wage Employer Certification program). The County was by far our largest Certified Employer at the time (and continues to this day) with over 750 employees;
- in October 2012, Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson, both workers at the-then ReCommunity Recycling (now operated by Casella Waste Systems) approached the TCWC wondering why, if they were working doing the business of the County, that they weren’t being paid a Living Wage (at the time, they were making $8.00/hour). We at the TCWC explained to them that we could mount a campaign to ensure that all County-contracted workers would be paid a Living Wage, but that we would need them as workers to truly make such a campaign a success;
- Milton and Stanley agreed to this campaign and we jointly lobbied the County Legislature in 2013. Milton and Stanley were on a mission, which included their setting up a Cable Access show dedicated to the cause. County Administrator, Joe Mareane, did a masterful job creating a Living Wage Working Group that the TCWC had a seat at and that met at least 10 times.
- In November of 2013, County Legislators Carol Chock and Nate Shinagawa proposed a Living Wage Contingency Fund of $100,000 to help those County Contractors who were not already paying a Living Wage to do so. The fund was approved by the full Legislature in December of 2013.
Today, we at the TCWC are happy to be able to tell you that this work has paid off as the County Legislature has just voted has just voted unamimously, 14-0,to approve a $20,000 disbursal from the County’s Living Wage Contingency Fund to Casella. The Living Wage will go into effect on February 1, 2015 for all those workers not presently making a Living Wage at Casella!!
This victory that ensures that all workers at a County-contracted agency, Casella, will be paid a Living Wage. This is on top of the other County-contracting agencies (Suicide Prevention and Crisis Services; Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels; and Tompkins Learning Partners) who are now able to pay all of their workers a Living Wage.
An especial thanks from the TCWC goes out to County Adminstrator, Joe Mareane; County Solid Waste Head, Barb Eckstrom; County Attorney, Jonathan Wood, and all the County Legislators who helped to make this happen. A thanks also goes out to Casella, who with six years still remaining on their contract with the County didn’t have to make this commitment at this point. It is an especially good example of teamwork and commitment from all the parties involved to speak truth to power.
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr: “A final victory is an accumulation of many short-term encounters. To lightly dismiss a success because it does not usher in a complete order of justice is to fail to comprehend the process of achieving full victory. It underestimates the value of confrontation and dissolves the confidence born of a partial victory by which new efforts are powered.”–Martin Luther King, Jr., from ‘Where Do We Go From Here?: Chaos or Community.