City of Somerville

Agenda Item

That the Administration ensure that the Living Wage Ordinance is fully applied to the city’s recycling contract.


Department:City CouncilSponsors:Ward Three City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen, Ward One City Councilor Matthew McLaughlin, Ward Four City Councilor Jesse Clingan, City Councilor At Large Mary Jo Rossetti, City Councilor At Large Wilfred N. Mbah, City Councilor At Large William A. White Jr., Ward Five City Councilor Mark Niedergang, City Councilor At Large Stephanie Hirsch, Ward Seven City Councilor Katjana Ballantyne

Official Text

WHEREAS,              The City of Somerville’s Living Wage Ordinance was enacted “to insure that employees of the city and employees of city contractors and subcontractors earn an hourly wage that is sufficient for a family of four to live at or above the federal poverty level,” (Ord. No. 1999-1, 5-19-99); and

WHEREAS,              The Somerville City Council is committed to paying dignified and fair wages to all Somerville workers, as evidenced by their unanimous vote in April 2019 to raise the Living Wage to $15 as of July 2020; and

WHEREAS,              Somerville’s current recycling contract with Casella, like similar contracts in our neighboring communities, exempts recycling workers from our Living Wage Ordinance and thereby allows these workers to be underpaid; and

WHEREAS,              The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) has stated that “Recycling workers are more than twice as likely to be injured at work as the average worker. Sorting recyclable materials can be a high-risk occupation, with workers regularly exposed to used needles, dead animal carcasses, and hazardous chemicals as they hand sort glass, plastics, metal, and other materials that have been mixed by consumers,” (MassCOSH, June 19, 2019); and

WHEREAS,              Furthermore, MassCOSH reports that “Many waste and recycling companies, including Casella, rely heavily on temporary labor, who tend to be paid less and are more reluctant to raise health and safety concerns due to their temporary status,”; and

WHEREAS,              The City of Boston, in June of 2019, announced that their next recycling contractor will be subject to Boston’s Living Wage Ordinance for the portion of their work representing their city’s contribution to the overall recycling tonnage (20%); and

WHEREAS,              Somerville’s current recycling contract expires in July, 2021, yet the urgency of addressing this issue is immediate; NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT

RESOLVED,              That the Somerville City Council views recycling and waste contracts as services, not the sale of goods, and therefore believes these contracts should be subject to our Living Wage Ordinance; AND BE IT FURTHER

RESOLVED,              That the Somerville City Council urges the Administration to fully apply our Living Wage Ordinance to our recycling contracts, to ensure that recycling workers are no longer underpaid for their labor.


Meeting History

Jul 11, 2019 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting

Councilor Ewen-Campen said that anyone working with the City has to meet living wage standards, which were recently raised to $15 per hour. Our recycling contractor has been operating under a loophole that exempts its workers, and this Resolution calls on the City to stop the underpayment of those workers by applying the living wage to the contractor now, even before it is up for renegotiation in 2021. Councilor Ewen-Campen sponsored Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, Co-Executive Director of the National Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, who spoke on the importance of safe working conditions and a living wage.