New York, NY – In a significant win for hard-working New York taxpayers, the NYC Council voted overwhelmingly today to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act.
The long-overdue legislation affirms what a majority of New Yorkers believe: when tax dollars are used to promote private enterprise, the public has the right to expect something in return: good jobs at good wages.
The veto override successfully closes another chapter in the ongoing campaign for economic justice in the country’s most economically polarized city. The Living Wage NYC Coalition worked to bring unions, community groups, clergy, and elected officials together to help make this happen.
“With this vote to override Mayor Bloomberg’s veto, the City Council stands firmly on the right side of history. Clergy in New York City are saying, ‘The reign of the rich is over!’ A new day has dawned in New York City. Together — faith leaders, labor leaders, community leaders and elected officials — are changing the culture of New York. We have only just begun to see the fruit of our growing faith-rooted movement for economic justice,” said Rev. Peter Goodwin Heltzel, PhD. from the steps of City Hall just prior to the vote. Rev. Heltzel is the Director of the Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary and a leader of the Faith Caucus of the Living Wage NYC Campaign.
Under the terms of the legislation, any private development project directly accepting $1 million or more in taxpayer subsidies must now pay employees a living wage of $10/hour with supplemental health benefits or $11.50/hour without benefits. The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, co-sponsored by Council members Oliver Koppel and Annabel Palma, reforms the city’s taxpayer-funded economic development programs, which have failed to create good jobs for New Yorkers because, until now, they lacked enforceable wage standards of any kind.
“The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act is an important first step in the right direction for ending extreme income inequality in the financial capital of the world. The City Council vote is an affirmation of the people's belief that a living wage is a moral imperative,” said Tasha Williams, President and Co-Founder, the Progressive Democratic Club of East Harlem and Living Wage Coalition activist, at the pre-override vote press conference at City Hall.
“We are proud to have played a lead role in building the living wage movement and shaping this legislation. The city needs to create higher-wage jobs, not poverty-wage jobs. An override of the Mayor’s veto is a major triumph for working people, for democracy, and for our city. It will be a significant step toward reducing inequality and poverty in our city,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU, UFCW).
“This has been a long and arduous struggle. The City Council made the right decision today for the people that entrusted them to lead our city forward. There is still much work to do and we look forward to continuing to fight for economic justice,” said Rev. Que English, Senior Pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship Church.
“I am pleased with the passage of the living wage bill. This legislation will benefit the city by reducing dependency on government programs increasing consumer spending and adding to our tax revenue,” said City Council Member G. Oliver Koppell, lead sponsor of the bill.
“It’s been a long journey to get here, but with the help of all of our partners, I believe we have succeeded in producing landmark legislation that will immediately help to improve the lives of hundreds of working New Yorkers,” said Council Member Annabel Palma, co-sponsor of the bill.