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McCall mayor not sure how city will enforce proposed minimum wage hike

McCall mayor not sure how city will enforce proposed minimum wage hike

Dustin Hurst
May 1, 2015

McCall might institute its own minimum wage law early next year, but there appears little knowledge about how the city government would enforce the ordinance.

Wage complaints are typically handled by the state and federal government, but an Idaho official says McCall would be on the hook to enforce its own law.

“It would be up to the local government to enforce its own minimum wage ordinance,” confirmed Bob Fick, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Labor.

Indeed, cities across the country are dealing with the issue as local wage laws grow increasingly common. Seattle, which passed an aggressive $15-an-hour ordinance, set aside $1 million to hire as many as eight staffers to deal with complaints and investigate businesses. San Diego could also use a similar amount to monitor wage issues.

But in McCall, a tiny mountain resort town a fraction of the size of the Emerald City, enforcement could be trickier. The proposed ordinance, a product of leftist group Fair Wage McCall, hands the city the power to investigate and punish businesses for non-compliance.

Officials aren’t sure exactly what it might mean, though. Unlike Seattle or San Diego, McCall doesn’t have a city office to deal with supposed wage theft complaints, nor does it boast any sort of human rights or civil rights enforcement staffers.

McCall Mayor Jackie Aymon, a celebrated Idaho Democrat, offered little when asked how the city would ensure businesses are paying the government-mandated wage.

“As far as I know there has never been an enforcement issue for the current minimum wage,” Aymon said. “If the voters approve the increase in minimum wage, it is likely employers will step up. McCall is a community of good, hardworking  and honest people who get things done.”

Or, in short:  ¯¯_(ツ)_/¯¯

Yet, Idahoans already complain about wage violations, and in significant numbers. Fick told IdahoReporter.com his agency handled more than 1,200 wage complaints last year, including between 600 and 700 dealing with the minimum wage. His office, he said, also fielded approximately 13,000 calls from Idahoans curious about Idaho’s wage laws.

Aymon, a physician at a local medical clinic, didn’t answer a second email requesting more details on enforcement.

No other members of McCall’s City Council responded to IdahoReporter.com’s request for comment.  Geoff Burns, the former Occupy Boise leader and the man behind the initiative, also didn’t return an email for comment.

The measure would boost the city’s minimum wage to $10.25 an hour through a two-year process starting Jan. 1, 2016. After that, the wage would be indexed for the consumer price index.

Fair Wage McCall, Burns’ group, says it wants to raise the standard of living for 700 workers who earn less than the proposed wage.

But critics say the move will only hurt the least-skilled, including teens and minorities, who might become expendable if the price of labor jumps too high.

“The best evidence suggests that a higher minimum wage is ineffective at reducing poverty, and carries with it unintended consequences for the people it's meant to help,” said Michael Saltsman, an economist and director of the Employee Policies Institute. “Service industry businesses have low margins and price-sensitive customers. When their labor costs increase, they're forced to respond by reducing costs elsewhere.”

Saltsman pointed out the Congressional Budget Office believes a nationwide wage hike to $10 an hour would cost 500,000 jobs.

“That's not a consequence that Idaho should want to risk,” Saltsman warned.

Burns and Fair Wage McCall need to bring in 196 signatures of registered voters to place the issue on the ballot in November. The group says it has hundreds more than that. After receiving the signatures, McCall has until August to verify them.

If it does, voters would decide the issue in the November election.

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