New York Times
Javier C. Hernandez
The Council focused its criticism on a study commissioned by the city’s Economic Development Corporation that argued that mandating higher wages could jeopardize tens of thousands of jobs and lead to significant losses in private investment in the long term.
The bill would require developers who receive large taxpayer subsidies to pay their workers from $10 to $11.50 per hour. The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn challenged the methodology of the city’s study, which was conducted by outside consultants. Referring to the cost of the study, he called it a “million-dollar whitewash.”
“If the Bronx Gateway mall is going to get $10 million, the cashiers shouldn’t make $7.44 an hour,” Mr. Lander said, referring to a subsidy provided by the city to build the mall.
Other Council members were more blunt in their assessments. “The administration is so full of it you should consider a high-fiber diet,” said Councilman Jumaane D. Williams of Brooklyn, to much applause.
Councilman Robert Jackson of Manhattan said even modestly higher wages were not enough for many families. “We don’t want people working like they’re indentured servants, working for pennies,” he said. “We don’t want that anywhere in the country.”
But city officials were resolute, saying wage mandates would hurt businesses and cause them to flee the city. “This bill would have a number of unintended consequences,” said Tokumbo Shobowale, chief of staff to Deputy Mayor Robert Steel.
Earlier on Thursday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended his position, saying increasing wages for some workers would be “very unfortunate” for the city’s economy.
“You would not help people who are starting their way up the economic ladder,” he said. “You would kill an awful lot of those jobs.”
The bill, known as the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, has garnered the support of 30 of 51 Council members, but it will be up to Speaker Christine C. Quinn to decide whether to bring it for a vote.