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Testimony on Good Jobs Bill

May 14, 2010

Good morning. My name is Ava Farkas. I am testifying on behalf of Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. We represent 45,000 men and women who work in retail, grocery and drug stores in all five boroughs.

Thank you Chairman Recchia and the other members of this committee for the opportunity to come before you today to provide testimony in support of Intro 18-2010, the Good Jobs Bill

This is a vital piece of legislation and I urge you to approve it and send it to the entire City Council for passage.

The Good Jobs Bill along with Paid Sick Days, and the upcoming Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act is designed to ensure that City policy, resources and money are harnessed to promote responsible development that will make it possible for New Yorkers to live decent lives.

Why is this package of legislation needed now? Because for far too long the business community has dominated politics at the expense of the rest of us. This has resulted in the enrichment of the few and the impoverishment of the many.

One-third of the City’s workforce is employed in low-wage jobs. Most of the job growth over the next 10 years will be in sectors that pay low wages. Ensuring a prevailing wage for building service and security workers and a living wage for retail workers is critical in fighting poverty and rebuilding New York’s middle class.

I’d like to read you a quote that clearly explains the business community’s position on what New Yorkers deserve in return for their investments.

This is from a “Crain’s” editorial that appeared in the May 2 edition just two weeks ago, I quote:

“The council needs to be disabused of the notion that a cashier, floor-sweeper or security guards must be paid enough to raise a family here. These jobs pay wages commensurate with the skill and education needed to perform them, and the available labor pool.”

This statement is simply outrageous and cannot go unchallenged.

The idea that only the unregulated market should determine the standard of living of our fellow citizens is just plain wrong. We have all bared witness to the recent havoc an unregulated market inflicted on millions of Americans. Higher wage standards must be part of the market, especially when public money is involved in the development of projects that should not only benefit private developers but the larger community and those who work in them.

I am confident that when the time comes to decide on whether or not to require a prevailing wage or a living wage be paid, the new council will vote in favor of the interests of the people of New York and not the few

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said shortly before his assassination more than 40 years ago:

“Now is the time to make an adequate income a reality for all of God’s children, now is the time for city hall to take a position for that which is just and honest.”

We’ve waited far too long to achieve this goal. Now is the time for this new City Council to act.

I urge you to support Intro 18-2010, the Good Jobs Bill.

Thank you.