John Scott, Democratic District Leader
I write this with a heavy heart. As we all know Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Memphis fighting for economic justice when he was assassinated. He believed we could pull people out of poverty with a living wage and dignity.
In New York City today, right now, where there is economic injustice, living wages are the hope of the working poor.
I have worked on this issue with a group called Democratic Coalitions for a Living Wage to persuade the majority of New Yorkers that it is time to pass the ‘Living Wage’ bill before the City Council. The proposed bill has the wide support of churches, community organizations and political organizations.
The New York County Democratic Committee passed a resolution on Wednesday, Jan. 12 unanimously supporting the fair wage legislation. “There was no debate, absolutely no debate whatsoever,” said County Chairman, Assemblyman Keith Wright. The resolution, Wright said, passed “by acclamation. It was unanimous.” Passing the resolution, Wright continued, means “New York County believes in living wage.”
Community boards and political clubs all over the city have also passed resolutions every day in favor of the law, and the New York Times endorsed the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, pointing to the reasons why it is long overdue for a city in need and that cities around the country have successfully implemented such standards to lift families out of poverty without harming development.
Those who supported this bill were hopeful and united. We were going to keep going until the bill was passed.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the business interests killed the living wage bill and replaced it with a watered-down version. The original bill said that when select businesses received $100,000 in public tax dollars to subsidize large private development, the resulting jobs would pay a living wage of $10 or $11.50 an hour if the employer does not provide health coverage.
The revised version of the bill would mandate a wage of $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 without benefits, for employees of projects that receive at least $1 million in subsidies. Small businesses with $5 million or less in annual revenue, and all manufacturing companies, would be exempt. But even this version was not acceptable to Speaker Quinn, King Bloomberg, Jessaca Lappin, and Inez Dickens. I am proud to relay that the rest of the Manhattan City Council members supported the Living Wage Bill.
The people of Manhattan have spoken: Community Boards 1, 6, 11 and 12 all passed resolutions supporting the bill; C.B.s 2, 3 and 10, meanwhile, have votes coming up later this month.
Overall, the, direct job impact on NYC by the fair wage bill represents only four percent of employment at Industrial Development Agency (I.D.A.) projects. If the bill was in place today, less than 15 percent, or 87, of the 613 projects would fall under the revised bill.
So why was this bill such a threat to the real estate leaders?
The bill is essential, and sets the tone more broadly for equitable economic development. There are setbacks, but we are not giving up.