NYC Council Approves ‘Living Wage’ Bill Bloomberg Vowed to Veto

New York’s City Council approved a law requiring employers to pay workers at least $10 an hour on economic-development projects that receive $1 million in tax abatements or low-cost financing.

The so-called living-wage bill, written after months of negotiating among council members, union leaders and developers, would affect at least 600 workers a year, said Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Manhattan Democrat. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, has pledged to veto the measure.

“When we invest in economic development, we should expect that the jobs created are good jobs,” Quinn said today before entering the council’s chambers, where members passed the bill 44 to 5. More than 34 votes exist to override a veto, she said. The mayor has said he’ll sue to block the law if that happens.

The law would require business owners in future city-aided projects to pay $11.50 an hour, or $10 with health benefits, in projects that get at least $1 million from the city Economic Development Corp. It would exempt workers in manufacturing, affordable housing, nonprofit organizations and small businesses.

“If you take city subsidies, which you’re not required to take, then you have to meet a standard of pay,” Quinn said. “If you don’t want to meet that standard of pay, then you don’t have to take the city’s money.”

Quinn Walks Out

Quinn, 45, who has expressed interest in a 2013 campaign for mayor, walked out of a pre-vote rally at City Hall after lecturing a bill supporter who derisively referred to the mayor as “Pharaoh Bloomberg.”

“In a democracy, people have the right to have different views, and we do not have the right to then call them names,” Quinn said before walking away from the podium. “I’m just not going to participate in name-calling.”

During a news conference, Quinn said the mayor signed a 2002 law that set an $8.10-an-hour minimum wage and provided medical benefits for more than 50,000 health-care workers in companies that have contracts with the city. At that time, the minimum wage was $5.15.

“So I don’t understand the mayor’s philosophical perspective as it relates to this voluntary economic-development program,” Quinn said.

Plans to Veto

Bloomberg last week announced his intention to veto the bill, saying private employers, not government, should decide wages based upon what the market for labor may bear. At that time, he vetoed a previously passed “prevailing-wage” bill covering janitors and other service workers in city-leased buildings and those receiving aid.

Such laws, Bloomberg said, are “a throwback to the era when government viewed the private sector as a cash cow to be milked, rather than a garden to be cultivated.”

Bloomberg has said he supports efforts in the state Legislature to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour from its current $7.25.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said the law would strengthen the city’s economy by protecting workers’ purchasing power.

In the past, Appelbaum said, “city government would enable a select group of companies and developers to get richer from taxpayer subsidies while allowing greater income inequality and poverty to take hold as a result.”

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Goldman in New York City Hall at hgoldman@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net.

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