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Controversy Over Living Wage Bill Heats Up Council Hearing
Grace Rauh

May 12, 2011
View the Original Article

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is fighting against the passage of a living wage bill, but supporters of the measure demonstrated by City Hall Thursday, before the City Council held a heated hearing on the matter. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

Those in favor of what's known as the Living Wage Bill took to Downtown Manhattan's streets Thursday to push City Hall for supportive salaries.

"We are not here just to survive. We want to live. New York City is too expensive to be paying us some cheap wages," said Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron.

The rally was a warm-up to a packed City Council hearing on the legislation. The bill would require any project receiving more than $100,000 in city subsidies to pay workers a "living wage." That's ten dollars an hour plus benefits or eleven-fifty an hour without them. The minimum wage in New York is $7.25 an hour.

"This is not the mayor's money, it's not my money, it's the money of the taxpayers of the city. That money should not be used to produce poverty-wage jobs," said Bronx Councilman Oliver Koppell.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration is fighting the plan. Officials say the wage requirements for city-backed projects would lead to as many as 13,000 job losses, and affect the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens the most.

"That is a cost that we simply cannot afford to bear," said Tokumbo Shobowale of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development.

Thirty council members have signed on in support of the bill, which led to some testy exchanges.

"The administration, I think, is so full of it. You guys should consider a high-fiber diet," said Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams.

Despite the groundswell of support for the living wage bill out here, its future is uncertain. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who holds tremendous sway over the legislation, has refused to take a position on the proposal and will not say when she will make up her mind.

"When I've made a decision, I'll have made a decision," Quinn said Wednesday.

Bloomberg has not been nearly as guarded.

"You would not help people who are starting their way up the economic ladder. You would kill an awful lot of those jobs and I don't think that's a good trade-off," said the mayor.

Supporters of the legislation say low-income New Yorkers are stuck with a bad trade-off right now, with working jobs that do not pay enough to make ends meet in the city.