Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council
Today, as the New York City Council held its long-awaited hearing on the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, members of Council’s Progressive Caucus express our strong support of the bill, and our hopes that it will move quickly to adoption.
Every year, the City of New York spends billions of dollars to subsidize large-scale economic development. Too often, however, those subsidies create low-wage jobs that don’t enable workers to support their families or sustain our communities.
The City should not be in the business of paying to keep people in poverty. When the City provides subsidies to businesses – in the name of job creation – we must insist that those jobs pay a living wage. The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act would require all businesses that receive financial assistance from the City (such as tax abatements or other subsidies) for economic and real estate development to pay at least $10 per hour with health benefits (or $11.50 per hour without).
Ensuring living wages not only helps fight poverty, but makes economic sense. If we subsidize poverty-wage jobs, we will wind up forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab through food stamps, child care, subsidized housing, health care, and other subsidies. Why pay to create jobs if those jobs don’t allow people to actually make a living?
Here’s what our Progressive Caucus members have to say about it:
“Publicly-supported job creation should lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it,” said Council Member Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “Cities around the country have adopted living-wage laws for their economic development projects, and it is time for New York City to catch up.”
“It is time for the City to develop an economic development policy that benefits all New Yorkers–not just developers and large businesses,” said Progressive Caucus co-chair Melissa Mark-Viverito (D- Manhattan/Bronx). “With millions in taxpayer dollars spent on economic development subsidies each year, we should be getting the maximum bang for our buck, by requiring that workers at these sites get paid a living wage. Doing so will bring more money into those communities that need it most and will help get low-income families closer to a path to self-subsistence, without breaking the bank for the business community, who still stand to benefit the most from these projects.”
“Now more than ever, it is time for profitable businesses in New York City to treat their hard-working employees with some dignity and pay them livable wages,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Queens). “These businesses often reap the benefits from public subsidies but yet they fail to give back to their communities and its workers. All New Yorkers deserve the opportunity to earn a decent and honorable living in order to support their families and meet their basic day to day needs. Allowing our workers to sink to poverty levels while the companies they work for continue to thrive is just not an option.”
“We in government often speak of giving individuals the tools needed to work their way out of poverty and towards financial self-sufficiency, yet too often we fall short of making this vision a reality,” said Council Member Annabel Palma (D- Bronx). “Every year, the City gives away hundreds of millions of dollars to developers through tax abatements and other subsidies. The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act would help ensure that this money would benefit more than the developer by providing living wage jobs for the community. ”
“It is outrageous that hard-working people—many of them women of color— are being shortchanged and exploited by developments that receive funding from the City of New York. The City has a responsibility to prevent the continued povertization of women and working-class people. The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act would ensure that our tax dollars create jobs that lift people out of poverty, rather than keep them in it,“ said Letitia James, Council Member (D-Brooklyn).
“New York City is the most polarized city by income in the country,” said Council Member Margaret Chin (D- Manhattan). “Middle-class and working families are struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of living in New York City. It is unacceptable that the people who keep our city functioning cannot afford a decent life in this city. On top of this, many families stand to lose daycare services, after-school programs, and social services. If rent-stabilization and eviction protections are not extended, those who are barely making ends meet could lose their homes. We cannot allow this to happen. We must live up to our responsibility as citizens to protect the middle and working class and ensure that New Yorkers can afford to live and thrive in this City.”
“Workers in New York, like workers everywhere, need to be able to support their families, and the cost of living in New York City is higher than almost anywhere else in America. If companies are going to base and build their businesses in New York, then they should pay a living wage,” said Council Member James Sanders Jr. (D-Queens).
“I come to this from the perspective of economic justice. Businesses seeking government assistance should recognize a responsibility to the people ensure that workers are adequately compensated and their working conditions present a safe and productive environment. If businesses don’t recognize this responsibility on their own government must do it for them,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn).
“New York City’s most vulnerable need the protection of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act. We must support fair wages for the working poor to stem the cycle of poverty and increase their economic viability. There is something inherently wrong about a city that subsidizes large scale development while stymying poor families’ economic development and fostering their dependence on city subsidies to fill the gaps created by the low wages they earn. This penny-wise, pound-foolish approach must be re-evaluated and corrected by passing the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act,” said Council Member Debi Rose (D- Staten Island).
“The proposed cuts will eliminate essential services, having a devastating effect on quality of life in communities across the City of New York,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (D- Queens). “After more than 150,000 New Yorkers lost their job during the financial crisis the banks created, the burden of solving our revenue shortfalls should not be placed on working families. We can no longer afford the subsidies, sweetheart deals and tax loopholes for executives receiving record bonuses or the corporations that provide them.”