Brown, Calvin raise eyebrows with “liveable wage” campaign

If Marie Brown is elected Mayor, she wants to raise the base pay of the city’s police officers, firefighters, and public works employees. Her thoughts were echoed by a candidate for the city council, Alicia “CoCoa” Calvin. Both women say the city should pay its first responders and public workers a “living wage.”

Speaking to senior citizens at the Council on Aging last week, Brown told seniors that their safety depends on well-trained law enforcement and first responders.

She said many firefighters bring home less than $2,000 a month despite extensive training requirements. She said seniors depend on first responders and the city should seek ways to provide them with a living wage.

The idea of a living wage was the centerpiece of statements by Calvin during a public forum Monday at the Monroe Civic Center. She said she wants to get more jobs, but city workers need “to be able to feed their families.” She advanced the idea of a living wage as a minimum for police officers, firefighters, and public works employees.

At every opportunity, Calvin brought up the need for a “living wage” for first responders and public works employees.

An MIT analysis of living costs in Monroe reports that in Monroe, a living wage for a single parent with two children is $26.14 an hour. MIT also reports that a poverty wage for the same family is $9.99 an hour and a below poverty or minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

All full-time workers for the city earn a $10 per hour minimum. The city upped the minimum wage, but because of the “full time” requirement, many still work for $7.25 hour because they are hired as part-time or seasonal workers to avoid higher pay requirements.

In her stump speeches to groups, Calvin says she favors implementing plans that gradually increase the minimum pay for all city workers until the city reaches a liveable wage.

“With wise use of budgeting and creative thinking,” she said the city should invest in its workforce, but at the same time trim its workforce to eliminate gloat.

Marie Brown

Calvin is challenging city councilwoman Juanita Woods whose position on a liveable wage for public works employees is different. In 2018, Woods voted to approve the city union contract over a protest that it excluded 21 garbage workers who work for minimum wage with no insurance or benefits. Mayo administration calls the trash collectors “seasonal” workers and hires them as day-by-day temps with no benefits. Many of them have worked as full-time temps for years.

Brown told seniors that she wants all firefighters, police officers and public works employees to have a livable wage so that they will be able to feed their families without working two and three jobs to make ends meet.

The living wage has not been a talking point of Fred Louis, candidate for Mayor. He said he would need to study the impact that a living wage would have on the budget. However, he said it is essential for all workers to be paid well for their services.

Mayor Jamie Mayo pays city hall executives well but has shown little sympathy for the public works employees and firefighters.

The state mandates a two percent salary increase for police and firefighters, which is usually consumed by increased insurance costs.

Economic Development

On the subject of economic development, Woods said she has created 400 jobs as a city councilwoman that with combined incomes of over $6 million. She did not elaborate on the type of jobs or where in district three the 400 workers are working.

“Six million dollars and over 400 people are working in district three,” Woods said.

She said she is working to improve the appearance of the district, which she hopes will attract more businesses. For two years, she’s been lobbying for a face-lift for the 165 Overpass. Two years .ago the projected was floated by the Southside Economic Development District at a proposed cost of $250,000.

Business operators opposed the idea of spending $250,000 to decorate the crosswalk that they said is in good repair, but in need of a paint job. They said the money could be better spent helping businesses along the Renwick Street strip.

Calvin was critical of the idea as a waste. Monday, she questioned how a paint job that shouldn’t cost more than “$2,500” is economic development.

After the radio forum, she told the media that the crosswalk is rarely used as residents dangerously risk dashing across the 165 highway. She said, since residents are not using the crosswalk, then it would appear that the crosswalk should get a touch-up paint job, but the city should work to install crossing lights to discourage unsafe dashes across highway 165.     

Woods did not respond to questions from the Free Press to identify the unnamed source of the $250,000 bridge repair funds or identify the unnamed businesses in District three that she claims 400 workers in the Booker-Renwick community.

Mayoral candidate Friday Ellis, did not respond to liveable wage questions for this article.