A Living Wage, Long Overdue

New York Times, Dec 25 2011
New York City provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year in taxpayer-financed subsidies to private developers. It is only right that the jobs created by those projects pay a decent wage. The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, widely known as the living-wage bill, would nudge these employers in the right direction.

The bill now before the City Council would require future development projects that receive $1 million or more in discretionary financial assistance from the city to pay $10 an hour plus benefits for full-time workers and $11.50 an hour without benefits for at least 10 years. That may not be much, but it is an improvement over the minimum wage of $7. 25 an hour.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is fighting this change, arguing that a wage increase might scare off new developments and cost the city thousands of lower-paying jobs. That has not been the experience elsewhere.

A similar law enacted in 2003 in Los Angeles requires companies receiving city subsidies to pay workers $10.42 an hour or $11.67 without benefits. Despite warnings that the city would lose projects, Donald Spivack, a development official in Los Angeles, said at a Council hearing last month that those predictions were wrong and that he was unaware of any project that was canceled because of the wage requirement. The Center for American Progress found that 15 cities with living wage laws, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Cleveland and San Francisco, “had the same levels of employment growth” as other similar cities without the requirements. ...