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Thursday, May 12, 2011

City Council to Debate Living Wage Bill Today

According to several  news outlets and the City Council's calendar, the long-awaited hearing on a controversial living wage bill--which was introduced last year--is set to take place at 1:30 this afternoon.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, sponsored by Bronx Council Members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma, would require developers of retail projects receiving taxpayer subsidies of more than $100,000 to pay workers $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 without. It has the support of every Bronx member of the Council, with the exception of James Vacca, who said he was waiting for a hearing on the issue before taking a side.

The legislation grew out of the 2009 debate over wages at the Kingsbridge Armory, and a coalition of community organizations and faith groups, many of them Bronx-based, have been campaigning in support of the proposed law.

On Monday, the EDC issued a report assessing the effects of a wage requirement, which concluded that such a mandate would stifle commercial development and kill potential jobs--a view that aligns with Mayor Bloomberg's, who commissioned the study.

Bloomberg staunchly opposes a wage requirement on the grounds that most businesses wouldn't be able to afford paying it.

Supporters of the bill, however, have slammed the EDC's report (and were slamming it last year before it even began).

"We knew the findings of this rigged study long before it was released," reads a statement from Living Wage NYC, the coalition that's campaigning for the bill.

"That's because the Bloomberg administration has openly opposed living wage standards. This is the same administration whose failed economic development policies have resulted in higher rates of homelessness, higher rates of hunger and higher rates of long-term unemployment."

City Comptroller John Liu sent out a press release calling the EDC's claims "distorted," and Councilman Koppell called it "flawed."

Supporters of the bill are expected to rally outside of City Hall today, before the hearing begins. We'll keep you posted on news as we hear it.


  1. Would the bill exclusively single out retail? If I build housing with over $100K in city money I am except from paying porters, etc a living wage? Or if I open a wholesale rather than a retail business I am exempt (see Hunt's Point produce center that may be saved with the enticement of way more than $100K of taxpayer monies.)? Say a new stadium is built for a minor league team or in 50 years for the Mets or Yankees, does that count as retail? How about a parking lot or entertainment venue? This post seems to indicate it is only for retail developments:

    "...[The bill] would require developers of retail projects receiving taxpayer subsidies of more than $100,000 to pay workers $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 without."

    Please clarify.

  2. Good question--thanks for pointing that out. Retail would be the most common instance, I believe, where the developers would be getting subsidized, but other projects would apply, per the Living Wage NYC's FAQs:

    "The types of employees covered include retail workers in subsidized shopping centers, concession workers at subsidized sports stadiums and cafeteria workers in subsidized office buildings. Small businesses, nonprofit organizations and affordable housing development projects are exempted from the living wage requirement."

  3. So you misreported? Why all those exemptions? This bill ia an extortionist's delight. Why dont we address thecreasons why these people can only work at target. Certainly the school system doesnt help, but can we please hold families responsible for poor parenting and enforcing an entitlement mentality? We should also hold the people themselves responsible for poor personal decisions.


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