October 23, 2013
By Stephanie West
Yonkers, New York – The Yonkers City Council last week introduced a local Living Wage Law that would require city businesses that receive tax breaks to compensate workers approximately $15.00 per hour with health benefits. A press conference was held October 18th at the Yonkers Costco store on Stew Leonard Drive to discuss the proposed law.
Council President Chuck Lesnick, Majority Leader Wilson Terrero (D-2nd District) and Council members Christopher Johnson (D-1st District) and Michael Sabatino (D – 3rd District) supported the legislation, based on a bill previously passed by the Council in 2006, but later vetoed by former Mayor Philip Amicone.
City Council President Lesnick said, “In contrast to fast food and big box stores that pay their workers poorly, Costco, a national chain and good corporate citizen, pays its employees $11.50 per hour to start with benefits, and after six months, $12.00 per hour. An average hourly wage of Costco employees is $16. In return they have a higher retention rate, greater sales per square foot ratio than other area big box stores, and their employees are happier too. Costco should be a model for the type of responsible and robust corporations we need in Yonkers.”
“Our residents work hard and try to get by on wages that barely allow them to live, let alone raise a family. A real living wage today will give them self-respect, dignity and a better tomorrow,” Majority Leader Wilson Terrero remarked.
The proposed law would require the City, its contractors and subcontractors (with contracts over $25,000), and those who work for employers that get significant (over $150,000) tax benefits or other financial incentives from the city and businesses benefiting from its financial assistance programs to pay their employees a wage that will enable a full-time worker to support a family at a level that meets basic needs and avoids economic hardship. The law has been sent to the Council’s Legislation and Codes Committee chaired by Minority Leader John Larkin where negotiations have already begun to establish the appropriate dollar amount. Initially proposed at $15.25 per hour, the Council Democrats are now working to implement a model based on the Living Wage adopted in Philadelphia, PA.
There, the Living Wage is calculated at 150% of the minimum wage plus $1.50 for health benefits, if not provided by the employer. The current minimum wage in New York is $7.25 per hour, which is also the federal minimum wage. However, the NYS Legislature has passed legislation that will increase the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour over three years, beginning with: $8.00 on December 31, 2013; $8.75 on December 31, 2014; and $9.00 on December 31, 2015.
The Council’s proposed bill would start on December 31, 2013 at $12.00 per hour, plus $1.50 for health benefits ($13.50), and climb to $15.00 by the end of 2015. The goal of $15.00 in 2015 is consistent with the “Fight for Fifteen,” currently being waged by fast food workers across the United States.
“Far too many New Yorkers are living in poverty today, with full-time work no guarantee that people can provide for themselves and their families. Now we have an opportunity to ensure that when companies receive tax breaks to do business in Yonkers, our communities and neighborhoods get something in return: quality jobs that can build better lives," said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). "With the passage of this bill, the living wage movement will continue transforming jobs for the better in New York.”