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Changes Give Living Wage Bill a Boost
New York Amsterdam News
Cyril Josh Barker

December 23, 2011
View the Original Article


While the City Council continues to haggle over whether or not to pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, also known as the living wage bill, a recent Quinnipiac University poll indicates that nearly 85 percent of Black voters believe that the bill is a good idea for the city.

Some recent changes to the bill are making it more appealing to City Council members who have been holdouts on a bill that is generally popular with voters. The changes have been made in a effort to get the living wage bill passed. The controversial bill would require big companies that want to develop in the city to pay their employees more than the minimum wage, up to $11.50 an hour.

Changes to the bill were reportedly pushed by Bronx City Councilman Oliver Koppell, who sponsored the original bill.

"[The bill] exempts companies with existing development deals if the agreements with the city are renewed," he explained. As well, landlords won't be liable if a retailer is found to be in violation, which targets retailers in subsidized developments.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio sent a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn addressing the issue. In the letter, he urged them to pass and sign the bill, pointing out that the middle class has been hit the hardest in the economic crisis and would benefit from the living wage bill.

"What moved me on this is it is a response to income disparity. Very little is happening in this country to respond on this issue," de Blasio told the AmNews. "The middle class is in crisis. People are economically insecure. I really didn't get any answers. I think there is a lot of momentum and a lot of folks and labor unions have come out in recent weeks. The majority of the City Council is ready to do it."

Concern over how small businesses would be affected was an issue for some council members, especially Inez Dickens in Harlem. She previously told the AmNews that she was worried because her distinct is primarily made up of small businesses.

Harlem City Councilman Robert Jackson told the AmNews that when the math is done, even though the living wage bill doesn't provide enough to live in New York City, it's still better than the current minimum wage. Jackson said that he promotes higher education as a means for New Yorkers to earn higher incomes.

He said, "I'm hoping people put pressure on all of the parties to force a resolution and allow the living wage bill to move. It's a no-brainer, and it's something that must be done in New York City, where it's expensive to live. We don't want people depending on city government for food stamps, Medicaid and housing."

The recent poll also found that 74 percent of all New York voters are in favor of the living wage bill. There is strong agreement among New Yorkers that city government should not continue to allow companies and developers that benefit from taxpayer subsidies to create poverty-wage jobs.

The vast majority of New Yorkers think the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act is fiscally responsible legislation, with 56 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats agreeing that the act would benefit the city and its workers.