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Bill Proposes Wage Floor on New York City Projects

New York borough politicians are pushing 'living wage' legislation to guarantee wages of at least $10 an hour plus benefits for jobs created at any city-subsidized projects.

May 24, 2010
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A dispute over wages that derailed the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx late last year is set to spread citywide: A bill to be introduced in the New York City Council on Tuesday, May 25, would mandate wages of at least $10 an hour, plus benefits, for all jobs created by city-subsidized projects slated.

The bill’s introduction will kick off a citywide push by a coalition of labor and community groups, spearheaded by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, aimed at pressuring elected officials to ensure that city tax breaks create jobs paying nearly 40 percent more than the state’s minimum wage of $7.25.

If the Kingsbridge Armory battle is any indication—elected leaders in the Bronx and the City Council ultimately squashed a project that would have yielded 2,200 jobs—the bill will be met with a frosty reception by the Bloomberg administration. It repeatedly argued that transforming the empty armory into a retail mall wouldn’t be economically viable if the mandate for what proponents call a “living wage” was attached.

With proponents of the new living wage bill seeking to cover all jobs created across the entire city via subsidized projects, the stakes will now be higher.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, which is expected to be unveiled by council members Oliver Koppel and Annabel Palma, both Democrats from the Bronx, at the behest of their borough’s president, Ruben Diaz Jr., would require developers of a project that receives more than $100,000 in city subsidies—such as bond financing, tax abatements or infrastructure improvements—to guarantee a minimum wage of $10 an hour plus benefits, or $11.50 without benefits. The salary would be indexed to inflation.

Filed by Daniel Massey of Crain’s New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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