June 19, 2013
By Bill de Blasio
New York is becoming a tale of two cities, and our middle class is in danger of disappearing all together. Last year, CEO pay hit a record high – at an average annual salary of $9.7 million – 354 times what the average worker earns. New York City is suffering from an inequality of opportunity, but part of how we fix it is by raising the floor on wages and benefits for those trying to make it into the middle class. That’s why I’ve laid out a comprehensive plan to lift up working families by focusing on helping people work their way up the economic ladder.
Mayor Bloomberg often boasts about making New York City a luxury product. I’ll give him credit for helping offset the loss of jobs on Wall Street by helping spur growth in our nascent tech sector. But if all we do is replace one high-end, elite economy with another, we’ll leave thousands of working families behind. If you look at the jobs our present economy is creating for people out of high school—or college—they are heavily focused in low-wage, no-benefit sectors like retail and tourism.
To lift people up, we’re going to need to focus on fueling growth in jobs that provide a path to the middle class, and on the kind of education-to-career pipelines that train New Yorkers for good jobs. But there’s another critical piece of the puzzle that can help families struggling today—we can raise the floor in industries that have been written off as low-wage backwaters.
The City needs an economic policy that focuses on raising wages for all workers in the city. We need to ensure all public contracts include provisions for workforce development and quality job placements for low-income New Yorkers. The City should also work to replicate in new sectors successful industry-linked training and apprenticeship models, that bring together labor unions, government officials, business leaders, environmentalists and CUNY educators to train the workers who build, renovate, and maintain buildings.
We need to spur growth in our small businesses and promote higher wage standards in the sector. By focusing on neighborhood businesses to help them get better trained workers who are more productive and better paid, we will be helping inject more employee and business spending into the local communities that need it the most.
Raising standards across the board is a win-win for workers and business. Wage protections that apply equally to all workers are good for the innovative firms that fuel long-term prosperity, who shouldn’t have to compete with low-road sweatshops which thrive on exploitation, not innovation.
New York City can’t become a city for the elite and those who serve them. It’s time for us to focus on creating opportunities for everyone on the economic ladder. Higher wages for working New Yorkers will grow our middle class and create a more prosperous City for all New Yorkers, not just those at the top.