LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Mayor Greg Fischer defended himself against critics who said he lacked compassion because of his opposition to raising Louisville's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Fischer, having abruptly called a news conference on the eve of Metro Council's expected vote, used graphics to lay out his case for what he called a "balanced approach" of $8.75 an hour. More than 2,000 jobs are at risk because Louisville employers can't afford to pay $10.10, he said.
"To put those jobs at risk because of some high-stakes gamble on the fact that the minimum wage is not going as high as some people may want, to me, that's irresponsible and I'm not going to do that," Fischer said.
But the fight isn't over. A group of Democratic council members will offer a plan to increase Louisville's minimum wage to $10.10 over the next five years, Councilman David James said Wednesday.
Supporters need 14 votes to advance any proposal through the Metro Council. Fischer has vowed to veto anything higher that $8.75, and Democrats don't have enough votes to override his veto.
"How we get to a higher number, I don't know yet. But I know it's not an issue that I'm going to let go," James said.
The city's current minimum wage is $7.25, the same as the national minimum wage.
Fischer said an increase to $8.75 could lead to an annual salary increase of $3,120 for a full-time worker.
Fischer said four companies in the West End -- Mesa Foods, Packaging Unlimited, Custom Quality Services, and Koch Filter -- have said they will move, close, or lay off employees if the city raises its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
"The community cannot afford to pay $10.10," Fischer said. "I wish it could. I wish we could pay $15 an hour. But that's ignoring economic reality."
Supporters of the original proposal said Fischer wasn't seeing the big picture.
"Because we have four companies that say they may move if the minimum wage is increased to $10.10 per hour -- a lot of people may do a lot of things," James said. "I don't believe that's the case. I believe it's a scare tactic."
Packaging Unlimited chief executive Pete Hanekamp attended Fischer's news conference and said he'd have to take a hard look at what the mayor's compromise plan would do to his payroll.
Hanekamp previously said he would close a West End packaging facility if the wage increased to $10.10.
"That concerns me when they say it's a scare tactic," he said. "I'm not trying to threaten anybody. I'm just saying, that's what will happen."
Fischer said he is most concerned about manufacturing businesses that have a high cost of labor as part of their total business expenses.
There are 35,000 jobs in Louisville that pay $9 an hour or less and 2,200 jobs that pay $8 hourly or less, according to Census data.
Four states have voted recently to raise their minimum wages and all are near Louisville's proposed increase: Arkansas, $8.50; Nebraska, $9; South Dakota, $8.50 and Alaska, $9.75)
Fischer's fellow Democrats in Frankfort sounded off against the mayor's talk of vetoing an increase to $10.10 per hour. Reps. Joni Jenkins, Mary Lou Marzian and Jim Wayne said Fischer's claim that a $10.10 wage would drive employers to neighboring counties was false.