Mayor Greg Fischer is supportive of a gradual increase to the minimum wage, but the Louisville Democrat said today that it hasn’t been a major issue locally.
“Obviously there hasn’t been any significant increase in decades in that, but frankly it has not been a big topic of conversation in our city,” said Fischer. “I would be supportive, however, if it was.”
Fischer, attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors, made the comments during an interview with NPR’s Here & Now.
The announcement came as a surprise to the labor rights advocates who have been lobbying locally for an ordinance.
For the past few months, city lawmakers have held several public hearings on the subject. In March, a national bus tour supporting a $10.10 wage parked in front of Fischer’s office to hold a rally featuring Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes and other officials.
Community activists say hundreds have lobbied for such a proposal since the U.S. labor secretary first stopped in Louisville to lead a discussion on the minimum wage hike last November.
“I am quite frankly surprised,” said Councilwoman Attica Scott, D-1, who is considering an ordinance to raise Louisville worker’s pay to $10.10 an hour. “I would hope the mayor has better relationships with council members and better understands the economic realities of people in the city of Louisville. This has been a conversation at the front and center of our vernacular here in the city.”
Just last month, Scott and the rest of the 17-member Democratic caucus signed an editorial in The Courier-Journal expressing their support.
In Monday’s Here & Now interview, Fischer said said he is supportive of a minimum wage hike as a businessman who “happens to be mayor.”
“When I talk to businesses around our city, if you are paying the minimum wage you can’t keep people employed,” he said. “The market is working to a certain extent in that area, but I’m not opposed to minimum wage increases.”
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat, has co-sponsored minimum wage legislation in Washington, D.C. The congressman’s office told WFPL it has received over 100 e-mails and phone calls this year from constituents, with most supporting a minimum wage hike by a 5-to-1 margin.
Across the country, cities have independently sought to increase workers pay as efforts have stalled at the federal and state level.
In early June, Seattle moved to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour that will be phased in over a number of years.
For those leading the grassroots movement in Louisville, Fischer’s comments are a sign the mayor has a tin ear to their efforts.
“While I’m glad that Mayor Fischer is supportive of a gradual increase to the minimum wage, I’m heartbroken to know that he’s telling a national audience that there has been no significant conversation in Louisville,” said Bonafacio Aleman, executive director of Kentucky Jobs With Justice.
“For the mayor to almost brush us aside by saying there’s been no significant conversation it’s heart breaking and it does paint a picture that the mayor is not listening to the people of this city.”
Earlier this month, the council approved an ordinance raising the hourly pay of full-time city workers to $10.10.
That measure raised affected just five Metro employees.