Why You Need To Be At The Living Wage Rally Tonight

Many Voices, One Goal: Supporting a Living Wage in NYC

When: Tonight November 21st

Where: Riverside Church (490 Riverside Drive – take the 1 train to 125th Street)

Time: Doors open at 5:30pm, Program starts at 6pm

Contact: Ahmed – [email protected]

In 2008-2009, when the downturn began to show how truly in trouble we were, our elected officials decided on a course of action that infused our economy with tax-payer money to prop up the financial market, stem the collapse of the auto industry (and thousands of its connected vendors) and pay to keep teachers behind desks and police officers on the street. Personally I supported these stimulus measures because I understood this was a necessary investment by the federal government of public dollars to reduce the pain the crash was inflicting on American communities nationwide.

Viewing local public subsidies in the same light is why I support the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act or otherwise known as the Living Wage Bill. The legislation would require any developer who takes over $1 million in tax payer subsidies to create jobs that paid no less than $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 without benefits. It’s important to be clear about one point – if a developer doesn’t ask the public to invest a critical stake in their project then this law does not apply and they are free to make decisions on equitable wages as they wish. But millions of dollars that are distributed each year in subsidies with the intention of being used for economic development is the public’s money and should be subject to our input. If that is true then we have to ask ourselves if supporting job creation where people are working 40 hour weeks and still living below the poverty line is actually a wise investment in the long-term.

The public has decided in many instances that poverty-wage jobs are a waste of tax-payer dollars and proof that it works can be found across the country. In 2007, there were approximately 140 living wage ordinances in place throughout the United States. Additionally, as a result of ballot initiatives, twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, representing nearly 70 percent of the total U.S. population, maintain minimum wage standards above those set by the federal minimum wage (taken from: A Measure of Fairness: The Economics of Living Wages and Minimum Wages in the United States – Jan 2008) According to Labor scholar Stephanie Luce the bill has led to increased, though modest, improvements while resulting in “higher worker morale and more productive employees.”

Its also important to note that the current bill involved ideas from workers and business as the drafters listened to the concerns of small businesses and local industry when they included protections like excluding manufacturing firms, companies with less than $5 million in annual revenue and those that receive less than $1 million in city subsidies. In addition the requirement would only be the first 10 years after they receive any subsidies. All parties these provisions answer many of the oppositions issues with the bill and still allows it to focus on reversing the most egregious cases of wasted public investment.

If this is something that makes sense to you, tonight hundreds are gathering at Riverside Church starting at 6:30pm to send a clear message to our elected officials as to how important passing this bill is for all of us. As a coalition for change we are saying that in this time of austerity and dwindling resources we may not have much we can use to fight inequality but the tools we do have as tax-payers, like the terms we dictate for giving out our money, should be used to create good jobs that pay a decent wage.

Hope to see you tonight !