Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
It turns out the current battle over a living wage bill that would raise the pay of workers in a select number of city-sponsored work environments is old hat. According to Doug Turetsky of the city's Independent Budget Office, New York already has living wage legislation on the books that, thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, goes far beyond what's currently being proposed:
Amid the uproar during the past few weeks over the proposed living wage law there’s one important point that you might have missed: the city already has a living-wage law. Its rules cover thousands of workers employed under more than $1 billion worth of contracts with the city.
In fact, New York City had one of the first living-wage laws in the country, though the city’s first bill covered just a couple thousand workers. Passed in 1996, over the veto of then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the legislation was championed by advocacy organizations such as the Industrial Areas Foundation as well as local unions. It required that private firms contracting with the city to provide food services, security guards, cleaners, and temporary office workers pay their employees a living wage that ranged at the time from about $7.25 to $12 an hour.
The number and type of workers covered by the city’s living-wage rules expanded in 2002 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a law that extended living-wage provisions to home health care and child care workers whose agencies had contracts with the city. The Brennan Centerat New York University estimated that under the new requirements the pay of 50,000 home health care workers would rise immediately and later the pay of up to 9,000 child care workers. Shortly after the law went into effect, Steve Malanga wrote ruefully in City Journal, “Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, New York will now have the largest number of workers covered by any living-wage law in the nation.”