Controversial ‘Living Wage’ Debate Heats Up In New York City

Some Workers Stand To Be Paid Up To $4.25 More Per Hour If Bill Is Passed

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg is against it and Council Speaker Christine Quinn is straddling the fence, but that didn’t stop hundreds from attending a hearing on a controversial bill to boost the salaries of some workers. It’s called a “living wage.”

It was a press conference hailing the construction of a new Staten Island grocery store getting $2 million in city subsidies. The owners were asked if they could still go ahead if a “living wage” bill is enacted.

“It would be almost impossible because our profit margin is very low,” Joseph Doleh told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

Under the bill projects like the Coney Island redevelopment, the Hudson Yards, the Intrepid, all built with city tax breaks, would have to pay their workers a so-called “living wage” of $10 a hour with benefits, or $11.50 without benefits, instead of the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

It is very controversial. Mayor Bloomberg insists it will drive jobs away. Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Quinn equivocated, saying that while she wants to raise wages she wants to do it “without doing anything that would make New York City a less desirable place to start or relocate a business or hurt our job creation.”

And at a hearing on the bill there was no shortage of strong opinions.

“From Egypt to Tunisia, from Wisconsin to ‘Occupy Wall Street’ there is a movement for social justice in this country and the living wage fight in New York is an integral part of it,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

“It’s an across-the-board substantial increase in labor costs in a city where it is already extremely expensive to do business,” said Robert Bookman of the Council N.Y. Nightlife Association.

Given the strong feelings on both sides of the issue there’s bound to be a whole lot more political wrangling before it comes up for a vote or if it comes up for a vote.

The bill applies not only to projects built with city tax breaks, but also to businesses like restaurants that may be located in the buildings.

Do you think the “living wage” is a good idea? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

  • Amy Seplin

    I definitely think it’s an excellent our ideas. The reasoning behind using our tax dollars to help get these projects built is that they’ll help create good jobs. Well a job that doesn’t pay people enough to stay above the poverty line is NOT A GOOD JOB. $10/hour + benefits is a very reasonable amount to require in NYC.

  • Tom

    Yes finally I hope this applies to people under 18 as well.

  • Scout

    Hey folks, don’t confuse the issues. The question was whether the Living Wage proposal was a good idea. It has nothing to do with welfare, etc. This is about making sure developers and businesses who do receive public assistance should be required to pay a living wage to their workers. You may not like it that there is welfare fraud, etc., but don’t suggest that anyone is for fraud, or even welfare itself, by supporting this proposal for a Living Wage.

  • Stan

    For a billionaire like Bloomberg I guess $23,920 per year is just way too much for anyone else to earn.

  • Ed

    “What is being done about financial public assistance being awarded to those who don’t deserve it?”

    I second that one, too many times I see well bodied people who can work and don’t because they live off Public Assistance/Welfare/Section 8 etc.

    Too many immigrants coming in to this country, after being told by family members about the vast Public Assistance programs in this country, and the minute they land here, they claim poverty, many, work off the books, others claim they are single parents, with well bodied Men either not working or working off the books(car Service). Their kids handing their welfare card to a Bodega owner to pay for sandwiches, soda, candy etc. what’s funny, how they claim poverty but call car service to take them to a location !!!

    This country is in financial ruin, and should reassess the welfare programs to truly trim the fat.

  • sumenyc

    What is being done about owners receiving an unfair share of the fruits of the labors of their workers while the workers struggle to survive?

  • dollars and SENSE

    What is being done about financial public assistance being awarded to those who don’t deserve it?

    • Editor

      This question is not relevant to the matter at hand here in this article. Please stay on topic. —

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