The conversation around raising the minimum wage has intensified over the last decade. With the dollar's purchasing power shrinking every year, millions of Americans are beginning to feel like the economy is a rigged game. In several cities, the minimum wage isn't even enough to rent an apartment. In an effort to combat inequality, progressive cities like New York have already raised their minimum wage. Austin, Texas, the famed "blue dot in a red state," just approved a resolution to make the minimum wage $22 for city employees via its City Council.
City Council approved a resolution on June 16 that could increase the minimum wage paid to all city of Austin employees from $15 per hour to $22 per hour. The resolution sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Fuentes "acknowledges the dire staffing crisis in the city" and that stagnant wages have had an impact on the city's ability to "retain and recruit experienced employees." Data from the Human Resources Department shows that from May 8, 2021, through May 21, 2022, the vacancy rate among all civilian city positions has been 15.7%. The peak vacancy rate this year was 17.5%; last year, it was 12.3%, and the year before that it was 11.5%.
With various positions tied to the city woefully understaffed- such as EMS and police- the City Council aims to boost potential employment with the increased minimum wage. It's believed that the increase in minimum wage could entice people to not only join the ranks of the city employees in Austin's time of need but help retain those already employed.
The vacancy rates among sworn positions at Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Services were likewise problematic: 12% for police, 9% for fire, and a staggering 23% for EMS. Several EMS medics addressed Council to describe how this severe staffing shortage, which they uniformly attributed to low pay amid increasingly difficult working conditions, affected their ability to provide a critical service to the people of Austin and Travis County – and the impact that has had on their personal lives.