It has been five months since the Bronx neighborhood of Kingsbridge won a battle for living wages, beating back developer Related Companies and its proposed redesign of Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall.
Now an army of New York City councilmembers are fighting for more.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. joined by elected officials, labor leaders and community groups from across the five boroughs are pushing for the passage of the “Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act.”
City Council Members Annabel Palma and G. Oliver Koppell introduced the act at Diaz's request. The bill mandates that jobs created at projects subsidized by the city that receive significant taxpayer money must offer employees a “living wage,” currently defined as $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 per hour without benefits.
The current minimum wage in New York is $7.25 per hour.
"I am sponsoring this legislation because I believe that when public subsidies are involved, the people that receive those subsidies should not be paying poverty-level wages. They should be required to pay a living wage," said City Council Member G. Oliver Koppell.
Both the living wage and the health benefits supplement will also adjust each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living.
The bill also seeks to cover workers employed at subsidized developments -- including employees at retail stores located in subsidized shopping centers, concession workers at subsidized sports stadiums and cafeteria workers in subsidized office buildings.
The proposed legislation comes of hot of the heels of the newly launched “Living Wage NYC” campaign. The campaign is a direct result of the struggle for the Kingsbridge Armory.
The developer there refused to meet the demands of the coalition of labor, community and religious leaders for living wage jobs and the project was defeated when all but one City Councilmember voted it down.
"The Kingsbridge Armory experience taught us that we need a citywide policy to guarantee fair wages on subsidized development projects," said City Council Member Annabel Palma. "The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act will lay out clear expectations for developers and help speed economic growth that will benefit all New Yorkers."
It has also gained support from the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union who has been leading the organizing efforts. A spokesperson for the union noted, “There is no specific gain for the union. This is much broader in impact than just the union. Our goal as an organization is to raise the wage fro all workers.” The union also stressed that there needs to be a more measurable return on public investments.
“When developers rely on the taxpayers’ wallets to make their projects work, they must guarantee that the jobs created at that project will offer its employees more than just a part-time, minimum wage job with no benefits,” Diaz said.