Dallas County Commissioners on Tuesday talked about controlling what private companies pay their employees.
Specifically, they discussed if they can keep a county contract away from a low bidder or company, because that company doesn't pay employees what county Judge Clay Jenkins wants them paid. He calls it a living wage.
“If you come to work 40 hours a week and you run the metal detector, you scrub and you clean and you dump trash and you’re in a Dallas County building for 40 hours a week and you're treated differently than everybody else in that building, that’s going to be a morale problem,” said Jenkins. “Besides being a moral problem, that’s really what it is, too; it’s a moral problem.”
The living wage debate came as commissioners were briefed on a contract for building security.
Staff recommended that Vets Securing America, the lowest bid. It pays its unarmed guards $9 an hour.
Judge Jenkins wanted Texas Star Security because its unarmed guards are paid $11.50 an hour.
Jenkins says he favors the higher wage above his living wage wish of $10.25 an hour for everyone who works in any way with the county.
“Now the problem you're gonna have as I see it right now, is what does the case law say about the lowest and best bid?” said Commissioner John Wiley Price.
Commissioners have already asked the attorney general for an opinion on whether they can require contract vendors to pay their workers a certain amount of money. He has not yet responded.
Jenkins believes he has authority.
“Governmental entities, that’s us, can enforce a higher minimum wage in a contract with a vendor,” said Jenkins.
“If you make part of the contract mandatory that you pay a minimum wage, then they'll pay that minimum wage,” said Commissioner Mike Cantrell.
But, says Commissioner Cantrell, companies will rob Peter to pay Paul.
“They're gonna make the same profit,” said Cantrell. “It’s a free market. It’s free enterprise. So what they do is they either raise the prices to everyone else, or they just charge Dallas County, so we, we pay that.”
Jenkins, as the court’s judge in the bully pulpit, says it’s hypocritical for the court to not try and raise people to a living wage.
“It's like talking to your kids about not smoking pot when they know where your bong is and you smell like pot,” said Jenkins.
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