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Living Wage NYC Campaign Begins

May 25, 2010

Bronx Borough President Diaz Joins with Labor, Community Groups, Elected Officials to Pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act

The Living Wage NYC campaign was launched today by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), City Council members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma, community groups from around the city, and other elected officials. The goal of the campaign is to pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act to ensure that New York City subsidies for economic development create living wage jobs.

“In my ‘State of the Borough’ address, I made it clear that the passage of a living wage law for New York City would be a top priority of my administration. Today, we begin the process of making this law a reality. When developers rely on the taxpayers’ wallets to make their projects work, they must guarantee that the jobs created at that project will offer its employees more than just a part-time, minimum wage job with no benefits. The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act will ensure that heavily subsidized developments create meaningful jobs for their future employees, and I am confident that our legislation will continue to pick up support from every corner of the City,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act will guarantee that when the city gives businesses public subsidies, the jobs they create will pay at least a living wage. All workers employed at subsidized developments will be covered, including employees at retail stores located in subsidized shopping centers, concession workers at stadiums and cafeteria workers in subsidized office buildings.

"I am sponsoring this legislation because I believe that when public subsidies are involved, the people that receive those subsidies should not be paying poverty-level wages. They should be required to pay a living wage," said Council Member G. Oliver Koppell who is introducing the bill with Council Member Annabel Palma.

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 is time for New York City to join the growing list of communities that promote quality development through living wages. Development that merely results in permanent poverty wage jobs accomplishes nothing. I am confident that the city council will put the interests of the people of this city above those of private developers," said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act is an outgrowth of the recent campaign to require living wage jobs at the redeveloped Kingsbridge Armory. The developer there refused to meet the demands of the coalition of labor, community and religious leaders for living wage jobs and the project was defeated when all but one City Councilmember voted it down.

“The Kingsbridge Armory experience taught us that we need a citywide policy to guarantee fair wages on subsidized development projects,” said bill sponsor Annabel Palma. “The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act will lay out clear expectations for developers and help speed economic growth that will benefit all New Yorkers.”

Some 200 members of the growing citywide coalition of community groups mobilizing for the living wage legislation packed the steps of City Hall for the launch of the Living Wage NYC campaign.

"Lots of people my age are moving out and getting ready to build a life on their own, but everything is so expensive right now. I work every single day and when I get my paycheck at the end of the week I feel like it's gone in the blink of an eye. That's why I'm here today, to fight for a living wage," said Nadia Yakubova, a low-wage retail worker.

Living Wage NYC Coalition partners (in formation): Families United for Racial and Economic Equality; Fifth Ave. Committee; Fiscal Policy Institute; Good Old Lower East Side; Labor-Religion Coalition; Make the Road NY; Micah Institute; National Employment Law Project; Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition; NY Communities for Change, Retail Action Project; Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).