During the 2023 Cleveland Budget hearings, Council Member Charles Slife and other council members wanted to know how many temporary and seasonal workers employed by the city were paid a living wage. Slife said, based on his research at the time, that was a minimum of $15.33 an hour for a single person with no children.

The question: Does Cleveland pay temporary and seasonal workers a living wage?

What we learned

Cleveland has a commitment on the books for all direct city employees to be paid a minimum of $15 an hour. The policy was put in place by former Mayor Frank Jackson in 2018. It does not seem that the pledge included temporary or seasonal workers.

 A company called Snider-Blake contracts with Cleveland to provide temporary and seasonal workers. A contract provided to Cleveland Documenters and Signal Cleveland did not include pay rates for every position. But contracts in 2022 and 2023 called for paying people employed for neighborhood grass cutting, pothole filling and lot cleanup, and seasonal park maintenance $13 an hour. Supervisors were paid $14 an hour. (The city paid Snider-Blake $16.51 for the regular employees and $18.34 for the supervisors). The staffing service recruits and screens employees for drug use and, in some cases, checks driving records.

More context

Cleveland has a fair employment wage law on the books. Do those protections extend to temporary or seasonal workers? The law doesn’t say. It says it applies to city employees and contractors who do business with the city.  Right now, it doesn’t matter much. The minimum wage under the law used to be regularly adjusted, but, in 2006, City Council halted any adjustments and the wage has been set at $10 ever since. In January, the state’s minimum wage increased to $10.10. The current living wage for Cuyahoga County is $15.61 for a single person with no children.  (Find more on how a living wage is calculated.) 

Cleveland is also supposed to have a seven-member Fair Employment Wage Board that monitors the effectiveness of and compliance with fair and living wages rules in Cleveland.  It hasn’t had members or met in years. The Guardians for Fair Work campaign has lobbied for the city to update the fair wage law, but no legislation has been introduced. 

Left wondering

The city said there’s been discussion about appointment members to the Fair Employment Wage Board but no set timeline for that. Slife told Signal Cleveland that information he got from the city showed that 246 employees are making at or below $15.30/hr. Many of those employees are trainees, students or interns. But the number includes traditional and seasonal employees, too. Slife said he and Council Member Danny Kelly are exploring potential legislation or another fix to raise all wages to a living wage.

Signal background

Community and Special Projects Editor (she/her)
Rachel leads our special projects work on topics that demand deeper coverage, and works with Cleveland Documenters and Signal staff to report those stories for wider understanding and accountability. She is our liaison with the Marshall Project in Cleveland where she focuses on including residents' voices in criminal justice reporting. Rachel has reported in Cleveland for more than two decades on stories that have changed laws, policies, hearts and minds. She was part of the team that helped launch Cleveland Documenters in 2020, and she was a John S. Knight Community Impact Fellow in 2021. Dissell is a two-time winner of the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for narrative stories about teen dating violence and systemic failures with rape investigations.

Cleveland Documenters pays and trains people to cover public meetings where government officials discuss important issues and decide how to spend taxpayer money.