Proposal would prevent TN cities from requiring living wage - WSMV Channel 4

Proposal would prevent TN cities from requiring living wage

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A living wage has been one of the rallying cries for the Occupy Wall Street movement, but some Tennessee state lawmakers are making a move to prohibit cities from forcing businesses to implement one.

The plan would prohibit cities from requiring businesses to implement any wage above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

It would also keep them from requiring any insurance mandates or family leave beyond state and federal law.

Opponents say it's not only an issue of people not being able to live on their salary, it's also part of a trend they believe is disturbing.

In 2007, Vanderbilt University, Nashville's largest employer, gave its employees a living wage. And last year, Metro followed suit.

"What we don't want is for our towns to start implementing a hodgepodge of laws that would keep the small businessman from expanding within the state of Tennessee," said Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove.

Last year, Casada passed a bill that prohibits cities from requiring companies it does business with to include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination laws. Now, he wants to expand that to stop living wage requirements.

"Things like that don't help him produce. They drive up costs and they kill jobs," Casada said.

Groups like the Tennessee Equality Project say it could eventually prohibit domestic partner benefit requirements as well.

And they say it's just another case of the state telling local governments what they can and can't do.

"These bills are coming from suburban lawmakers who deliberately don't live inside the big cities and yet somehow see a need to regulate what goes on in those cities," said Chris Sanders, with the Tennessee Equality Project.

While Gov. Bill Haslam says he is not for a living wage, he also says he is not against cities implementing one for contractors, even though he signed the repeal of the nondiscrimination bill.

"If they want to put that in place for themselves then they should be able to decide to do that," Haslam said.

Right now, only Memphis requires its contractors to give employees a living wage of $10 to $12 an hour.

This would nullify that ordinance and prohibit any other cities from ever following suit.

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