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Labor and Faith Communities Demand Living Wage in New York
Taylor Leake

October 14, 2010
View the Original Article

This past weekend leaders of faith communities across New York City took a stand. More than 80 congregations demanded that New York City institute a living wage by passing the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act.

"We are the moral conscience of our society," said Pastor Fernando Cabrera, who is both a City Council member and a minister at New Life International Outreach Church.

Indeed, pastors, rabbis, priests and other faith leaders talked to their congregants about economic justice during the Living Wage Weekend, part of the Living Wage NYC campaign. The campaign aims to raise wages in New York City to a living wage, defined as a wage that affords a full-time worker the ability to afford shelter, food, health care, and other basic necessities without going into debt. That's not too much to ask, right?

During the Living Wage Weekend, community members, faith and labor leaders signed thousands of post cards to their councilmembers asking them to support the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act. That act, which is just a start in this battle for workers' rights, would require that any publicly subsidized development project pay workers at least $10 an hour and provide them with benefits. The bill would expand on a limited living wage ordinance that Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed in to law in 2002 that covered employees of service contractors doing business with the city (mostly health care, day care, and food service workers). It would also put New York on a list of about 120 other cities that have a Living Wage for any city funded projects.

Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg is opposed to this bill. He feels that developers might take a pass if they have to shell out the extra money for labor. If you think it's time to stand up for economic justice and a living wage for workers in New York City, please sign this petition to Mayor Bloomberg urging him to support the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act.

The bill makes perfect sense. To start with, $10 an hour isn't all that much, especially in New York City, literally the most expensive place to live in the entire country. Working full time, $10 an hour earns you about $20,000 a year, which puts a family of four (say a single mother with three kids) below the federal poverty level. It also makes sense on principle. Any business that gets money from taxpayers shouldn't perpetuate poverty, they should help alleviate it by providing good jobs.