Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's Alive!

 In spite of mayoral skepticism, the living wage campaign got a spirited launch on Tuesday-and as City Room reported Mike Bloomberg wasn’t a happy camper: “Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg walked toward City Hall on Tuesday, squinting into the sun, as dozens of protesters standing on the steps turned toward him to shout a battle cry. “What do we want? Living wage! When do we want it? Now!” Mr. Bloomberg smiled tightly as he climbed past the sea of demonstrators swathed in blue T-shirts to enter the building. It is a refrain that is likely to echo across City Hall in the coming months, creating a political headache for Mr. Bloomberg. Two Bronx council members were to introduce a “living wage bill” on Tuesday that would guarantee salaries of at least $10 an hour, nearly $3 above the minimum wage, to all workers at development projects receiving public subsidies.”

But are the mayor’s objections legit? The Drum Major Institute doesn’t think so: “Mayor Bloomberg's comments on a new bill being considered by the City Council are not just disingenuous, they're also flat out wrong. Yesterday, Bloomberg slammed the new bill--which would require employers to pay living wages to all workers at city-subsidized projects--saying that the requirement would stop new development deals from going through. "It's a nice idea but it's poorly thought out and will not work... the economics don't work if you have to pay more." It seems the mayor has a short memory. Just last year the city agreed to include wage requirements as part of the redevelopment of Coney Island--prevailing wages for hotel and building service workers and living wages for other workers.”

And DMI goes on to point out: “But if the "economics don't work," as the mayor claimed yesterday, then why did the administration agree to these requirements for Coney Island? Unless Bloomberg is purposefully trying to kill the redevelopment plan, there must be some disconnect in the mayor's logic.”

So what does the bill actually say. The Observer lays it all out: “The bill, dubbed the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, would force most every development receiving city subsidies of at least $100,000 to require a minimum wage of $11.50 an hour (or $10 and benefits) for anyone working in the development, a mandate that would mostly affect retail jobs (which tend to be low wage).”

The campaign really generated strong support Tuesday-led by the RWDSU’s Stuart Appelbaum. Here’s City Room again: “Stuart Appelbaum, president of the national Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union , responded to Mr. Bloomberg at Tuesday’s rally. “Mr. Mayor, that is the same thing they said about the minimum wage and Social Security,” he said. “They were wrong then, and they are wrong now.” More than 20 council members from all five boroughs have already signed on to support the bill, according to Councilman G. Oliver Koppel, one of its two authors. They would need 34 votes to override a veto by the mayor if the bill were passed, he said.”

So the battle lines are joined and the campaign has its work cut out for itself-given the mayor’s opposition along with the real estate community and the building trades. Here’s the relevant passage from the bill-courtesy of the Observer-and we’ll give the legislative language the last word: “It is the policy of the city that jobs supported with financial assistance, whether conferred directly by the city or indirectly by a city economic development entity, should pay wages that allow working New Yorkers to support themselves with dignity. In furtherance of this policy, covered employers shall pay their employees no less than a living wage."