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Stop Funding Poverty Wage Jobs!

March 10, 2011

Elected Officials and Advocates Say, ‘Pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act Now!’

At a major public forum this afternoon, elected officials and advocates called for passage of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act as one way to address the plight of the working poor in New York City. Their call came as the evidence mounts that the more than $2 billion in public money being spent annually in the name of economic development and job creation is, in fact, creating poverty wage jobs.

“It is not only reasonable, but should be demanded, that economic development projects heavily subsidized by taxpayer dollars create living wage jobs, not poverty-wage jobs. My office is very focused on ensuring that taxpayers get a much higher return on public investment in job creation and that the entire economic development process is as transparent and accountable to the public as possible,” said New York City Comptroller John C. Liu.

A disturbing study, “An Overview of Job Quality and Discretionary Economic Development Subsidies in New York City,” finds New York City spends well over $2 billion annually in the name of economic development and job creation. This study shows that companies receiving these taxpayer-funded subsidies pay a significant number of workers poverty level wages. This is a clear sign the City’s economic policies have failed working people.

“Our city government should not be in the business of subsidizing poverty. We need to begin making sure that people who work in this city can afford to live in this city. That’s why I am working with other Council members to pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act,” said Brooklyn City Council member Jumaane Williams.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act would require employers that receive major public tax subsidies to pay employees at least $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 without. The living wage legislation now has 29 City Council co-sponsors.

“New York City has become the economic capital of disparity. The distance between the rich and the poor continues to grow in an astounding way. However, there's still time to bridge that divide, and this movement for living wages is that bridge,” said Rev. Dr. Raymond Rivera, of the Latino Pastoral Action Center and member of the Living Wage NYC campaign.

Elected officials and experts brought in new evidence pointing to the urgent need for New York City to address the plight of the working poor. With nearly two million New Yorkers relying on food stamps to survive, experts and elected officials agree that now is the time to focus attention on paying New Yorkers the living wages they deserve.

Today’s panel was held as NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn agreed this week to hold a hearing on the bill. A hearing date has not been set. A majority of New York City Council members have signed on to the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, as has Liu, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and a host of unions and community groups.

More than 45 cities have enacted such legislation and have found that these policies create quality jobs for local residents without slowing economic growth or preventing economic development. New York City is behind the times on this issue and, as a result, publicly subsidized developments are keeping people in poverty-wage jobs, rather than providing them with opportunities to get ahead.