Councilmen propose defying state law to raise minimum wage

Chattanooga City Councilman Moses Freeman and at least two colleagues plan to propose an increased minimum wage within the city despite a 2013 state law that declares municipalities cannot do so, reports the Times-Free Press.

“I think it’s time that we look into it. We are not getting any leadership at the state or federal levels,” Freeman said. “I think workers here who are at the federal minimum — that’s $7.25 an hour — that is not enough in today’s world to keep workers out of poverty.”

…(C)ouncil members Chris Anderson and Jerry Mitchell, who said at a nonvoting meeting they would sponsor the bill once it’s drafted, said they would challenge the 2013 law.

“I’m aware that the legislature passed a law that makes them think that they can restrict us from passing a minimum wage,” Anderson said. “Councilman Freeman has asked our attorney to find a way to do it, and I support him.”

Mitchell had similar sentiments.

“Some people in Nashville, some of whom we elected, feel municipalities shouldn’t have this power. But I’m willing to debate that with them publicly,” Mitchell said.

Not everyone on the council is a fan, however.

Councilman Larry Grohn said the market should determine wages in Chattanooga, not the government. An increase in the local minimum wage will ultimately mean fewer minimum-wage jobs for people who aren’t equipped to find higher-paying work, he said.

…The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have city-by-city wage statistics, but in 2014, the bureau reported Tennessee had the highest share of workers of any state paid at or below the minimum wage.

A total of 110,000 of the state’s 1.6 million workers, or 5.2 percent, were paid the minimum wage or less. Nationwide, 3.9 percent of all workers were paid the minimum wage or less in 2014, according to the bureau.