By Summer Brennan
At a press conference held on the steps of City Hall today May 25th, workers, community groups, and elected officials met to launch the Living Wage NYC campaign, spearheaded by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), and City Council Members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma.
The campaign, which aims to pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, advocates for New York City subsidies for economic development to create living wage jobs. According to the campaign, the bill will guarantee that when the city gives businesses public subsidies, the jobs they create will pay at least a living wage. The purpose of the new law is to ensure that New York’s economy recovers through an investment in rebuilding the middle class jobs needed to thrive in the 21st Century.
“Living wage jobs must be the standard,” Councilman Koppell said. “We must prevent more poverty wage jobs from being put into our communities.” Mr. Koppell said he was sponsoring the legislation because he believed that when public subsidies were involved, the jobs they created must also benefit the public; they should not pay poverty-level wages.
Mr. Appelbaum agreed. “New York needs to join the growing list of communities that promote quality development through living wages,” he said. “Development that merely creates permanent poverty wage jobs accomplishes nothing. When the public’s resources are used to support private development, the public has the right to expect something.” For Mr. Appelbaum and those he represents, that means good jobs that pay living wages.
Bronx Borough President Diaz said that the passage of a living wage law for New York City was a top priority for his administration.
“Today, we begin the process of making this law a reality,” he said. “When developers rely on the taxpayers wallets to make their projects work, they must guarantee that the jobs created at that project will offer its employees more than just a part time, minimum-wage job with no benefits. This Act will ensure that heavily subsidized developments create meaningful jobs for their employees, and I am confident that our legislation will continue to pick up support from every corner of the City.”
According to the bill, which is being introduced by Council Members Koppell and Palma, all workers employed at subsidized developments will be covered, including employees at retail stores located in subsidized shopping centers, concession workers at stadiums, and cafeteria workers in subsidized office buildings. Under the bill, the living wage will start at $10 per hour. Employees who are not covered by an employer-provided health plan will receive an additional $1.50 per hour wage supplement to help them purchase their own insurance.
“We need a city-wide policy to guarantee fair wages on subsidized projects,” Ms. Palma said. This bill “will lay out clear expectations for developers and help speed economic growth that will benefit all New Yorkers.”