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City Council Majority Supports Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act

July 28, 2010
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Momentum Grows for Living Wages in Publicly Subsidized Development

The Living Wage NYC Campaign announced today that a majority of New York City Council members have now signed on in support of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act (Intro 251) requiring developers who receive major taxpayer-funded subsidies to pay at least a living wage for the permanent jobs they create.

"Reaching this majority shows that when City Council Members are faced with a clear choice about what type of economic development our tax dollars should support, one that keeps people in poverty or one that provides a path to the middle class and supports our communities, they will make the right choice. The majority has decided that public subsidies must be used to create permanent living wage jobs," said Rev. Sekou, a member of the Living Wage NYC Coalition from the Micah Institute.

Every year New York City spends billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize development and create jobs. Too often the permanent jobs created with these public subsidies pay poverty wages with no benefits -- whether it's retail and stockroom jobs at shopping centers, mailroom jobs in office buildings, or food service jobs at stadiums.

Under the bill, the living wage will start at $10.00 per hour - the same as under New York City's existing living wage law. Employees who are not covered by an employer-provided health plan will receive an additional $1.50 per hour wage supplement to help them purchase their own health insurance. Both the living wage and the health benefits supplement will be adjusted each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

"It's great news that a majority of City Council members have taken a stand for working people in New York," said Irene R Romero, a retail worker and member of the Retail Action Project (RAP). "If I made a living wage, I could pay the bills and have a little extra money to help my family more and save for school."

Reaching the 26-vote threshold needed to pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act adds to the momentum for a citywide policy to guarantee fair wages on subsidized development projects. The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act will lay out clear expectations for developers and help speed economic growth that will create jobs that benefit all New Yorkers.

More than 15 cities have enacted such legislation and they have found that these policies create quality jobs for local residents without slowing growth. New York City is behind the times on this issue and, as a result, our publicly subsidized developments are keeping people in poverty-wage jobs, rather than providing them with opportunities to get ahead.

Living Wage NYC Coalition partners (in formation): Community Voices Heard; Families United for Racial and Economic Equality; Fifth Ave. Committee; Fiscal Policy Institute; Good Old Lower East Side; The Greater NY Labor Religion Coalition; Jewish Labor Committee; Make the Road NY; The Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary; National Employment Law Project; Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition; Northwest Bronx for Change; NY Communities for Change; NY Jobs with Justice & Urban Agenda ; Retail Action Project; Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).