Monday, December 19, 2011

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio pushes living wage bill (UPDATE)

The center of the Living Wage battle: The Kingsbridge Armory
In a letter sent yesterday to Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has announced his support for a living wage bill.

The bill, which is currently in limbo in the City Council, would require certain companies receiving city subsidies to pay employees $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 without. De Blasio is expected to face Quinn in the Democratic primary for mayor, and the debate over a living wage will be a hot topic.

This is going to be a difficult issue for Quinn; she receives major contributions from the business community, which is firmly opposed to it. Bloomberg is also strongly against the bill.

In his letter (below), de Blasio says the prolonged economic crisis has battered the middle class. "Underlying these problems is a rising income inequality that threatens our social fabric and economic future," he writes. 

But de Blasio is calling for one change to the bill, which is to protect smaller businesses by increasing the amount of annual revenue that a business must earn to require offering a living wage to $5 million.

The bill, introduced by City Council members G. Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma on the behest of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., has been sitting in the City Council for months now, and has gone through much debate, both in public and in the Council. Quinn has yet to decide whether or not she will bring it to a vote.

De Blasio goes after the bill's detractors, defending the stoppage of the Kingsbridge Armory shopping center.

"Some have claimed that a Living Wage bill would inhibit future development, citing the City's experience with the Kingsbridge Armory as an example," he wrote. "I am the first to say that it was a tragedy negotiations were not able to yield a project at the Kingsbridge Armory. I do not subscribe to the notion that no projects are better than imperfect projects. But what killed the Kingsbridge Armory project was brinksmanship in the negotiating processnot the principle of a Living Wage."

UPDATE: Here is a statement from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. It should be noted that de Blasio was at the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club's holiday party last week, where Diaz spoke about the living wage. The BFRDC is also home to Koppell.

“As a leader in the fight to bring a ‘living wage’ law to New York City, I enthusiastically welcome Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s support for the ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act," Diaz said. "Public Advocate de Blasio has displayed a strong record of fighting for the rights of those underserved and often ignored residents of this City, and his support for this historic legislation is another great example of his commitment to justice and fairness for New Yorkers.

“For months, the public advocate met with individuals and organizations on all sides of this legislation as he engaged in a thoughtful, deliberative examination of the merits of this bill. After meeting with me personally last week, I am thrilled that he has joined the majority of our City in support of the ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act. This further demonstrates that we are gaining momentum in our efforts to pass this important legislation.

“The ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act will ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent not only to enrich major developers, but also to provide a way forward out of poverty for their employees. Bill de Blasio understands that, and I welcome his support for this bill and look forward to working with him on making it law."

Living Wage

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