May 16, 2011
By Kismet Barksdale
At a time when far too many working people struggle to survive, members of a growing citywide movement today demanded living wage jobs for all New Yorkers at a public City Council hearing. At the City Council’s Contracts Committee hearing today, Mayor Bloomberg’s biased and rigged anti living wage study was also challenged.
Council members listened adamantly as passionate testimonies were delivered throughout the afternoon for passage of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, popular legislation supported by a majority of City Council that will ensure taxpayer subsidies create more living wage jobs.
“It is the responsibility of elected officials to use taxpayer dollars in a manner that leads to the best return on investment for those same taxpayers. Yet, our City’s current subsidy policies prioritize the return on investment for developers. When billionaire developers put their hands out and demand heavy taxpayer subsidies for their projects, they must do better by their employees. “The Fair Wages for New Yorkers” Act will make sure that happens, and I am proud to lead the fight to make this bill law” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
“Publicly supported job creation should lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Cities around the country have adopted living-wage laws for their economic development projects, and it is time for New York City to catch up.”
“Taxpayers should not be subsidizing minimum wage jobs. When the City issues billions of dollars worth of public benefits to businesses, we should expect that the jobs created pay a living wage,” said New York City Comptroller John C. Liu.
The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act would require employers that receive major public tax subsidies to pay employees at least $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 without. The living wage legislation now has 30 City Council co sponsors.
“The gap between rich and poor in New York City is at its most pronounced,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW. Wall Street is bouncing back from the recession of the last few years, but middle class and low wage workers are not. The best way to combat the increasing numbers of working poor is for the city to support policies that will increase the wages of workers. And the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act will do just that. It seeks to guarantee that economic development policies consider the needs of workers as well as businesses and helps raise workers from poverty wage jobs.
More than 45 cities have enacted such legislation and have found that these policies create quality jobs for local residents without slowing economic growth or preventing economic development. New York City is behind the times on this issue and, as a result, publicly subsidized developments are keeping people in poverty wage jobs, rather than providing them with opportunities to get ahead.