Living Wage Closer for City Contract Workers

April 12, 2012 Updated: April 13, 2012

NEW YORK—Private companies working on publicly subsidized contracts will likely soon have to start paying at least a living wage to their employees, which is $10 an hour with benefits and $11.50 without. The current New York state minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

“Businesses that accept significant taxpayer dollars must pay a living wage,” tweeted Christine Quinn, announcing completed negotiations on a living wage bill on Thursday. “Based on the breadth and depth of NYC’s Economic Development program, this will be the most impactful living wage law in the U.S.”

Projects currently underway will not be affected. Workers building the Fresh Direct grocers warehouse in the Bronx will not see a mandated change in salary, nor will workers on the Hudson Yards development.

Related Companies, the developer at Hudson Yards, contributed about $38,500 of the $5 million in Quinn’s 2013 mayoral campaign fund, causing some to cry foul. Quinn said on WNYC on Wednesday, “Our intention was never to move backward, but to get future deals moving forward. Most of the leases [and] deals on Hudson Yards are well along in the negotiation.”

Holding subsidized developers to the $10 per hour minimum wage could mean as much as a $3 per hour increase for some low-level employees working on subsidized developments.

Only businesses receiving $1 million or more in subsidies would be affected.

Quinn noted that unlike other cities with living wage legislation, New York City has development projects in the pipeline that will see the impact soon.

When asked what Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s stance is, Quinn said, “One thing the mayor is, is clear.” Bloomberg does not support the living wage legislation as it stands.

The mayor and other opponents to the legislation feel it is bad for business, and that a bad business climate does not support job growth.

Mayor’s Veto Power Axed

The legislation originally included an executive waiver, which would allow the mayor to override the law when negotiating publicly subsidized contracts. Officials kept the waiver under wraps until Thursday, but Quinn eliminated it from the legislation during Thursday’s negotiations anyway.

The business association, Partnership for New York City (PNYC), was not happy at the waiver’s removal.

Previously supportive of the legislation, PNYC’s president and CEO Kathryn Wylde released a statement after the waiver was cut: “Our understanding of the revised language of the Living Wage bill [is that it] would tie the city’s hands in negotiating the best possible terms for city-assisted projects.”

Quinn said on WNYC on Wednesday that if the mayor vetoes the legislation, the City Council has enough votes to override his veto and it will pass. If that is the case, the legislation will pass by the end of the month.