The 9-2 vote by the Budget & Finance Committee sets the stage for the full council to give final approval Tuesday night. The measure would raise the pay of 14 employees from $7.72 to $10.77 an hour, which equates to about $22,400 a year.
Some council members complained that the bill's sponsors and Mayor Karl Dean's administration had slipped the living-wage plan into a larger employee pay package that requires just one council vote rather than the three needed for the operating budget.
"Whoever came up with the strategy was brilliant," Councilman Charlie Tygard said. "I just think it deserved better treatment than this, and I'm disappointed in the way it was handled."
Councilman Michael Craddock said he would have to vote against the plan while holding his nose, expressing his displeasure at voting against the 2 percent bonuses for all employees that are the centerpiece of the pay changes.
But Dean aides said the living-wage proposal went through the normal process, moving from the Civil Service Commission to the mayor to the council. And supporters on the council said it was wrong to vote against giving a small group of employees better pay.
"I'm not going to vote against those 14 families leaving poverty," Councilman Jerry Maynard said. "They're the hardest workers in this city, and we say we appreciate them, and we call ourselves Christians, and yet we don't do the moral thing because we're upset with the process."
Councilman Bo Mitchell pointed out that many council members, including some of the critics of the living-wage measure, had harshly criticized the Metro school board for privatizing custodial and groundskeeping services and reducing the hours of bus drivers.
"We need to be consistent, ladies and gentlemen," Mitchell said.