Fair Wages For NYers Are Long Past Due

Last Thursday evening a few of us from MYD got to be part of an incredible event. Sitting shoulder to shoulder with people of different ages and backgrounds at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem we watched as the pews filled quickly for a rally organized by Living Wage NYC held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. As we sat down you could not help but notice the excitement of those in attendance making the energy in the room that much more palpable.  The elected officials, religious leaders and 2,000 supporters who gathered on the evening of January 13th were there to show their support for the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act. The proposed city regulation is a bill aimed at creating living wage jobs for New Yorkers within developments where a considerable amount of taxpayer dollars have been invested.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act will:

* Guarantee that workers in large development projects receiving public subsidies are paid at least the New York City living wage of $10 an hour

* Index the living wage to inflation so that it increases every year and keeps pace with the cost of living

* Require that employees who do not receive health insurance from their employer receive an additional $1.50 per hour wage supplement to help them purchase their own health insurance

* Apply the living wage guarantee to all workers at a subsidized development project, regardless of whether they are employed directly by the developer or by the project’s tenants or on-site service contractors

The bill goes so far as to include provisions that exempt affordable housing projects, small businesses and local social and cultural institutions. This law has been enacted in cities nationwide with numerous studies including a recent one by the Center For American Progress that refutes arguments by critics that believe a living wage law would hamper economic recovery and deter businesses from coming to New York.

Despite the opposition from Mayor Bloomberg and much of the business sector, 29 city council members have signed on as co-sponsors to this bill and its chief advocate, City Councilmember Oliver Koppel, has promised to navigate this on to the floor for a vote this year. As progressive democrats we should stand with him and look to always steer public dollars toward creating jobs that decrease the growing income divide and give low-income families the standard of living they deserve.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act is a fitting way to honor Dr. King’s work to win fair wages for all workers regardless of color or class. Fiscally what makes more sense than building a wider and more inclusive consumer base that contributes to our recovering economy? These protections have been implemented else where with success and it can thrive here.

To learn more about the living wage coalition go to www.livingwagenyc.org