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St. Petersburg council passes living wage ordinance

ST. PETERSBURG — An ordinance requiring certain city contractors to pay workers a minimum of $12 an hour was approved by City Council members Thursday with some amendments.

The living wage ordinance applies to businesses with major city contracts providing goods and services of more than $500,000 and with more than 25 employees. The $12 an hour requirement includes the cost of health insurance.

Thursday's discussion amended the proposed $100,000 threshold to $500,000, which pleased Gary MacMath of the Boley Centers.

He told the City Council that the agency, which has summer youth and after school contracts with the city, would be forced to reduce the program under the $100,000 plan.

Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said he was not there to "debate the merits" of a living wage ordinance, but spoke of the ordinance's "unintended consequences," as mentioned by MacMath and a small business owner.

The trade group Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents more than 400 companies and over 500 apprentices enrolled in training programs in the area, objects to the ordinance that will go into effect on Jan. 1.

"The construction industry is already facing a significant skilled labor shortage and wages are already on the rise," said Steve Cona III, president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors for the Florida Gulf Coast.

Contractors in the region are investing millions of dollars to recruit, hire and train the workforce, he said.

The group believes that "artificially mandating wage requirements will have unintended consequences that are going to be a barrier to entry level jobs in construction," Cona wrote in his statement to the Tampa Bay Times.

He added that the mandate will make city construction projects "less attractive to quality specialty contractors" and that contractors in the region's booming construction industry "are being extremely selective which projects they bid."

Thursday evening, council member Charlie Gerdes spoke passionately in support of the measure.

"Poverty affects the children," he said. "I'm even more convinced that this is the way to go. . . . There's no good reason not to do it."

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

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