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City Council Set to Debate Controversial 'Living Wage' Bill
Jill Colvin

May 12, 2011
View the Original Article

CITY HALL — After months of heated rhetoric, elaborate protests and a city-funded million dollar study, the City Council is finally set to hear the case for forcing developers who receive large city grants to pay their workers a so-called "living wage."

Under the proposed legislation, to be debated Thursday, any project receiving more than $100,000 in benefits would be forced to pay workers at least $10 an hour, plus benefits, or $11.50 without — significantly higher than the minimum wage.

Proponents say the city shouldn't be subsidizing projects that pay poverty-level wages. But opponents, including Mayor Micheal Bloomberg, say the plan would drive developers out of the city, killing jobs and choking economic growth.

"The goal of increasing wages among New Yorkers of course is a good one, but this type of approach in other cities hasn’t just failed, it’s done so with severe consequences for job-seekers and businesses," Bloomberg spokesman Andrew Brent said in a statement earlier this week, following the release of a $1 million study on the topic funded by the city.

According to the Economic Development Corporation's study, the bill would have dire consequences, including derailing 24 percent of office projects in Manhattan and costing tens of thousands of jobs and billions in investment over the next 20 years.

But proponents, who have been building a coalition in support of the bill for months, quickly dismissed the study as nothing more than propaganda.

"The mayor has said wage standards only belong in the Soviet Union, but his administration's thuggish tactics on living wage lately have been straight out of the KGB," Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which has been driving the campaign in favor of the bill, said in statement.

So far, 30 Council members have signed onto the bill. It takes 34 to override a veto by the mayor.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has not yet taken a public position on the issue.

Advocates are planning to rally in City Hall Park Thursday ahead of the 1 p.m. council hearing.