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Tell Mayor Bloomberg to Stop Fighting Living Wage Legislation
Poverty In America
Lauren Kelley

May 30, 2010
View the Original Article

Readers, I need your assistance. Please help me understand why a proposed bill that would guarantee a living wage for New Yorkers working on city-subsidized projects is controversial. Because I really don't understand.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act would ensure that any developer receiving city funds for a project has to pay its workers at least $10 an hour, or about $3 an hour more than minimum wage. Ten dollars an hour is not a lot of money. In fact, for someone working forty hours a week, it comes out to something like $20,000 a year. For a single-income family of four, that would be below the federal poverty line. Don't forget that we're talking about New York City here, which is the single most expensive place to live in the country. Who could possibly be in favor of paying New York workers — those working on projects funded with taxpayers' money, no less — so little?

I'll tell you who: our mayor. Yes, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the driving force behind the opposition to the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act. His argument is that the bill would hinder development, because developers won't be willing to pay the extra labor costs so they'll pass on city contracts. But guess what, Mayor Bloomberg? Ensuring prosperity for New Yorkers is your job.

It's incredibly hypocritical, if you think about it, for the city to fund homeless prevention programs, but not be willing to ensure that workers earn enough to pay their rent. Is Bloomberg aware of how people become homeless? Is he also aware that New Yorkers, as a whole, are struggling amidst 10 percent unemployment right now? Seeing as how he's not only the richest man in New York, but one of the richest men in the world, it's easy to see how he'd be a little out of touch with the needs of the poor. But that doesn't make it right.

For the record, at least 120 other cities around the country have laws requiring wage standards for city-funded projects, and none of them are worse off for it. New York City even reached a similar agreement last year for a development project in Coney Island. It sounds like Mayor Bloomberg may have forgotten about that. Let's remind him.