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City Council Ends Stalemate Over Living Wage Bill

Friday, January 13, 2012

A City Council stalemate over a so-called living wage bill has ended with a deal that could raise the pay for several hundred workers a year at city-subsidized developments.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Friday she will introduce a revised version of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act that will will require companies receiving at least $1 million in city subsidies pay their workers $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 without.

The current minimum wage is $7.25.

"Placing this requirement on businesses that don't receive a direct benefit is simply unfair," Quinn said.

The original bill would have raised pay to at least $10 an hour for employees of tenants at city-subsidized developments, as well as for employees of the developers themselves. Quinn said she plans to introduce the bill — now in its third iteration — next month.

The compromise legislation would raise wages only for employees of companies directly receiving subsidies.

The speaker also called on New York City's Economic Development Corporation to negotiate development packages that result in higher wages – both for the direct recipients of subsidies and their retail tenants. For example, Quinn said, the EDC could give higher points in its bidding process to applicants that plan projects where all workers, even tenants, would be paid a living wage.

Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, an organization of the city's business leaders, said the business community generally has concerns about wage mandates and the potential impact on hiring and increases to project costs. But she called the new proposal a "positive step forward."

"The council leadership and the bill's sponsors have come together, listened to some of the concerns and have resulted in language for a bill that is fair and reasonable, and that the business community will be able to have some comfort in," she said.

Council members estimate that the new bill would affect at least 450 workers each year. The previous bill, with the wage mandate extended to retail tenants, would have affected at least 600 workers, Quinn said.

The bill would have to be approved by the Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has long opposed the idea of a living wage mandate.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said he still has concerns about the revised proposal and the impact it could have on reducing the number of jobs in New York City. She said the mayor will have to fully review the bill in order to assess its impact on the city's economy.

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