Petition to Raise County Workers’ Wages Sparks Mixed Reviews in Athens


Over 30 percent of people in Athens-Clarke County are living below the poverty level.  The group Athens for Everyone has petitioned to give all county workers in Athens Clarke County a living wage. Tim Denson, the president of Athens for Everyone, believes this will have a domino effect on other employers.

“If we have that policy put in place where the Athens Clarke County government says, ‘We pay a living wage to all of our workers,’ that has repercussions to other employers in the Athens-Clarke County area, too, who may say we need to start paying living wages also,” Denson said.

Tim Denson ran against current mayor, Nancy Denson, in the 2014 mayoral race. Mayor Denson says an ordinance like this would be too costly.

“If we raise the bottom rate we’re going to raise everybody in between, so it would be a huge cost to the county,” Mayor Denson said. “There’s only so many dollars to go around. It’s going to mean that we’re going to have to take money away from the transit system, or from putting in sidewalks, you know you can’t be everything to everybody.”

UGA economics professor Ian Schmutte said an ordinance like this may not have a deep negative impact.

“Most studies have found that living wage ordinances don’t seem to have particularly large effects on municipal budgets,” Schmutte said.

An open records request filed by Tim Denson revealed that 11 county positions in Athens-Clarke County now make under a living wage, nine part-time positions and two seasonal positions.

These are the positions Denson said he is petitioning for and will continue to get more signatures with hopes to mobilize those who’ve signed in rallies, events and meetings to get this ordinance passed.