As Parkland Moves to Increase Minimum Wage, Clay Jenkins Pushes for Others to Join

The worst-paid workers at Dallas County's Parkland Hospital make $8.78 an hour, a buck and change more than the federal rate of $7.25. But that's still not enough to live, hospital officials said this week, so they recommended increasing the base salary of entry-level positions to $10.25 an hour. If approved by the full hospital board, the increase would affect 230 employees.

"It brings our minimum base more in line with industry standards and it helps us recruit and maintain a higher caliber of staff at all levels inside Parkland," Jim Dunn, the hospital's executive vice president, said in a press release. (Officials declined to be interviewed.)

The increase would bring the hospital in line with the rest of the Dallas County government, where full-time employees earn at least $10.25 an hour. Judge Clay Jenkins, who spearheaded the increased minimum wage in the county, told Unfair Park he was proud of Parkland and hopes others in the private sector follow suit. Ten dollars an hour is a living wage, he said, and it's difficult to raise a family on less than that.

Jenkins and District Attorney Craig Watkins recently sent a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott. The duo wants to know if, under current laws, the county has the right to require its contractors to pay at least $10.25 an hour. Jenkins believes it does.

Raising wage floors has been a topic of discussion from coast to coast of late, as Seattle controversially increased its minimum wage to $15 an hour and the White House, stymied by Congress, took the small step of increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10.

Jenkins said he hoped to form a critical mass of area agencies and businesses willing to pay a living wage. Dallas, though, won't likely be among them.

"I don't think that's politically possible," councilman Phillip Kingston told Unfair Park on Thursday.

Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.