New York Times
The bill now before the City Council would require future development projects that receive $1 million or more in discretionary financial assistance from the city to pay $10 an hour plus benefits for full-time workers and $11.50 an hour without benefits for at least 10 years. That may not be much, but it is an improvement over the minimum wage of $7. 25 an hour.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is fighting this change, arguing that a wage increase might scare off new developments and cost the city thousands of lower-paying jobs. That has not been the experience elsewhere.
A similar law enacted in 2003 in Los Angeles requires companies receiving city subsidies to pay workers $10.42 an hour or $11.67 without benefits. Despite warnings that the city would lose projects, Donald Spivack, a development official in Los Angeles, said at a Council hearing last month that those predictions were wrong and that he was unaware of any project that was canceled because of the wage requirement. The Center for American Progress found that 15 cities with living wage laws, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Cleveland and San Francisco, “had the same levels of employment growth” as other similar cities without the requirements.
Mayor Bloomberg’s arguments against this modest wage increase contrast with his endorsement of a 2002 city law that now sets a minimum of $10 an hour for about 60,000 workers employed by service contractors hired by the city, many of them home health care workers. Home care workers got a similar increase as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Medicaid redesign this year.
The City Council has revised the bill after earlier criticisms that it was confusing and too restrictive. It now has clear exemptions for manufacturers and smaller businesses with revenues of less than $5 million. The bill’s sponsors should also consider exempting grocery stores in areas that need fresh food markets. That said, this bill makes sense. A wage of $10 an hour would help lift thousands of New Yorkers above the poverty line.