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Group Picked for Living Wage Study Accused of Bias
Bronx News Network

August 25, 2010
View the Original Article


On Aug. 12, the city's Economic Development Corporation announced its decision pay $1 million to Charles River Associates, a Boston-based consulting firm, to conduct a survey on the economic effects of a living wage law.

This week, a coalition of groups and unions that have been fighting for such a law are calling the city's selection "rigged," claiming that two of the economists chosen to work on the project are biased and have well-known anti-living wage sentiments.

“Using consultants who have already made up their minds shows that the EDC is not concerned with the economic development of all New Yorkers," said Valery Jean, Executive Director of Families United for Racial Economic Equality, in a statement. His group is part of the Living Wage NYC campaign.

A press release issued by the EDC says that Charles River Associates was chosen through a "public, competitive process," and that the firm has a "strong expertise in economic and financial analysis."

The Living Wage NYC campaign released a statement accusing two of the consultants, David Neumark and Daniel Hamermesh, of having ties to a research organization called the Employment Policies Institute, which they say is backed by the beverage industry and notoriously anti-living wage (read their whole statement here.)

Last June, Neumark wrote this article for the Wall Street Journal, where he argues against a minimum wage increase during a recession.

The idea of a requiring a living wage--a salary paid to workers that's higher than the mandated minimum wage--has been a contentious topic here in the Bronx. Last year, a plan to build a shopping mall at the Kingsbridge Armory was voted down by the City Council after the project's developer refused to pay workers there a minimum of $10 an hour (or $11.50 without benefits).

The incident sparked a controversial and citywide debate. Supporters say a living wage is a reasonable way for hard-working residents to survive in a city that's only getting more expensive. Opponents--including the Bloomberg administration--argue that such a requirement would burden businesses and hinder development.

This spring, Bronx City Council reps Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma introduced a bill, dubbed the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, that would require any developers who receive taxpayer subsidies to fund their projects to pay their workers a living wage.

Living wage supporters say the EDC's study is a "stalling tactic" to stop such legislation from passing. the study is expected to be finished by next spring.