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City Council Plans Hearing on Raising Minimum Wage
Bed-Stuy Patch & Forest Hills Patch
C. Zawadi Morris

March 21, 2011
View the Original Article

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn recently announced that she plans to hold hearings next month over the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, a bill introduced last May requiring employers that receive public tax subsidies to pay employees at least $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 without.

The bill, co-sponsored by City Councilmember Al Vann and 28 other lawmakers, is an effort to alleviate the low-wage situation of hundreds of thousands of poor New Yorkers trying to survive off of the $7.25 minimum wage-- what many argue is far below a living wage, particularly in a city with one the nation’s highest costs of living.

“There are too many hard-working New Yorkers earning poverty wages, and for too long, city-subsidized developments have earned profits at the expense of taxpayers and low-wage workers,” said Council Member Al Vann. “It is time to ensure that these developments provide a public benefit to our city's communities in return for receiving taxpayer money.”

In May 2007, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 increased the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.

Some counties and/or cities within states may observe a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state in which they are located; sometimes this higher wage will apply only to businesses that are under contract to the local government itself, while in other cases the higher minimum will be enforced across the board.

In California, for example, the minimum wage is $8 an hour ($9.92 in San Francisco). In Illinois, it is $8.25. In Oregon, where there is a clause for inflation written into its wage bill, the wage increased 10 cents to $8.50 on January 1, 2011.

Not surprisingly, the business community opposes the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, and many raise questions about Quinn’s support of the bill as well, following her decision last year to kill the Paid Sick Leave Bill.

Similar to the Paid Sick Leave Bill, the Fair Wages bill had widespread support from the city council when it was first introduced. Quinn argued at the time that the Paid Sick Leave Bill would negatively impact small businesses.

And as Quinn prepares for a mayoral run, many speculate about where whether she will again side with the business community or the city’s poor residents.

“Living wage laws, as enforced in other cities and states, have proven to not only be beneficial for workers, but also for local economies. This legislation would be a critical tool for lifting New Yorkers out of poverty, and therefore I support it," said Vann.