Taveras wants ‘study’ on $15 hotel minimum wage

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Angel Taveras said Thursday an economic impact study is needed before the city agrees to a $15 minimum wage for hotel workers.

Taveras declined to say whether he would veto an ordinance that would raise the minimum wage if it is approved by the City Council, but urged the council to do its due diligence before it votes on the legislation.

“I think we should do an economic impact study that helps us evaluate the impact of this very unique proposal so we can understand what, if any, consequences we might have there,” Taveras told WPRI.com. “We want to make sure to help the people we want to help.”

The ordinance currently before the council would require hotels with at least 25 rooms to pay employees a minimum wage of $15. In April, Unite Here Local 217, which represents some of the city’s hotel workers, submitted more than 1,000 signatures from Providence residents asking the council to consider the wage increase.

The City Council Ordinance Committee was slated to discuss the proposal Thursday night, but the meeting was abruptly postponed.

Earlier this year, an economic development task force created by the council recommended that that the city require a fiscal note to be included with “all ordinances introduced which would require businesses to take or not take certain actions.”

“I always try to evaluate based on all of the information and I think until we have that [study], it’s hard to fully evaluate,” Taveras said. “So I hope the council will follow their own recommendation.”

Taveras, a Democrat running for governor, has said he supports raising the minimum wage in Rhode Island, but indicated the current proposal is “not even citywide.” His comments came shortly before the union released a poll showing that 66% of likely Providence voters support raising the minimum wage for hotel workers.

The landline and cell-phone interview poll was conducted May 21 through May 25 by DAPA Research Inc. of Lynnfield, Massachusetts. The survey had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4 percentage points.

The union declined to release the results of the poll in its entirety, including questions about the mayor’s race and whether opposition to the minimum wage proposal would hurt Taveras or City Council president and mayoral candidate Michael Solomon’s chances in the general election.

Jenna Karlin, a spokesperson for the union, said the group has tried to have an open dialogue with the Taveras administration, but “they’re not really talking to us.”

Solomon has said he supports raising the minimum wage for hotel workers, but stopped short of backing an increase to $15.

“The council president supports an increase of the hotel minimum wage and will now let the committee process unfold,” spokesman Bill Fischer told WPRI.com. “He believes it will produce an outcome that will lift working families across the city out of poverty. That is what is in the best interest of the city and its working families.”

Solomon is running in the Democratic primary for mayor against former Water Supply Board Chairman Brett Smiley, former Housing Court Judge Jorge Elorza, East Side businessman Lorne Adrain and Chris Young. The lone Republican in the race is Daniel Harrop.

Smiley, Elorza and Adrain have all said they support an across-the-board minimum wage increase to $10.10 per house, but none of them have backed the hotel workers’ proposal.

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan

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