Columbia workforce reacts to proposed city plan

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COLUMBIA - Some Columbia residents share concerns with some of the ideas brought up in a proposed city plan focusing on wages.

Columbia City Manager Mike Matthes proposed his 2016-2019 strategic plan during a news conference Friday.

The plan is designed to establish a baseline of current living wage jobs aimed at increasing the number of living wage jobs, reducing the median wage gap between white and minority households and reducing the skills gap in the labor market, according to a recent statement. 

Matthes said he understands some residents may be worried about the city's pay structure and its potential threat to prosperity.

"We send a mixed message if we don't address their concerns while we're encouraging the rest of the community to pay a living wage," Matthes said.

Local ophthalmic technician Sara Krachmalnick said the government, in general, needs to take a stand when it comes to wage discrepancies, especially in regards to race and gender.

"You deserve equal pay based on skill and ability, and those should be the only two things that really dictate your wages and your hours and all of your benefits," Krachmalnick said.

Addison's co-owner, Jeremy Brown, said he strives to create a fair and pleasant work environment for his employees. He said it starts with providing benefits and paying a fair wage.

"One of the most important things, as far as happy employees, is treating them with respect and somewhat becoming personally involved in their lives," Brown said.

Columbia has seen an increase in poverty in the past five years with a growing gap between the poor and the wealthy, according to the plan. Matthes said the imbalance is one of the greatest challenges facing Columbia.

Krachmalnick said, "It's obviously the responsibility for the employer to be treating their employees with respect."

In the plan, Matthes listed five strategic priorities for the city: economy, social equity, public safety, infrastructure and operational excellence. Each has its own set of goals.

The Columbia City Council will vote on the proposed plan at its meeting Tuesday.