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Controversial 'Living Wage' Bill Hearing Set
Crain's New York
Daniel Massey

April 21, 2011
View the Original Article

The measure, which is bitterly opposed by business groups and avidly supported by organized labor, would mandate wage of $10 an hour, plus benefits, for workers on city-subsidized projects.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has scheduled a City Council hearing for May 12 on a contentious bill that mandates higher wages at city-subsidized projects.

The hearing of the Contracts Committee comes even though the council speaker has yet to take a stance on the issue, which has been championed by labor groups and opposed by business organizations.

A report commissioned by the city's Economic Development Corp. on the feasibility of mandating higher wages at city-subsidized projects is expected to be released in the weeks before the hearing.

The bill would require businesses at projects receiving more than $100,000 in subsidies to pay workers a so-called living wage of $10 an hour, plus benefits, or $11.50, without benefits. Small businesses with revenues under $1 million and nonprofits would be exempt.

The hearing is likely to draw a throng of union and clergy members, who have argued the bill is needed to help plug a widening income gap in the city. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is mobilizing proponents of the bill to attend. And it's likely to attract a crowd from the city's business community as well, which is beginning to muster an opposition campaign, led by an alliance of the city's five chambers of commerce. They've argued the bill could stifle development, and prevent small businesses with more than $1 million in revenue from moving into city-subsidized locations.

A majority of Council members have signaled their support for the measure, but supporters are still five votes shy of the two-thirds majority they'd need to override a veto from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who opposes wage mandates.