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Judge Rules a New Wage Law Invalid

Monday, August 05, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg had said the Prevailing Wage Law would have been bad for business (Colby Hamilton/WNYC)

In a victory for Mayor Bloomberg, a state supreme court judge has deemed a so-called Prevailing Wage Law invalid. After overriding a mayoral veto, the law was passed by the city council in the spring of 2012. Bloomberg sued to stop it from going forward.

The Prevailing Wage Law backed by unions would have raised the pay of janitors and other low wage services workers to more than $20 an hour at dozens of buildings that receive tax breaks or other forms of government assistance. In his decision, the judge ruled the law is invalid because the state’s minimum wage law preempts it. He also wrote he was rendering his decision with great misgiving and questioned the mayor's zeal for challenging the law.

Bloomberg has said the legislation would stifle development projects and create onerous record keeping. Hector Figueroa of 32BJ, the service workers union, argued that an already existing prevailing wage law has not deterred building in New York City. However, he said it only applies to developers with city contracts.

"So in this sense the Mayor actually got it wrong," said Figueroa. "The bill is not about scaring development away from the city, it's about making sure that there is a level playing field for all developers in the city."

The law that was overturned would have expanded to private development projects receiving government subsidies.

A mayoral spokeswoman called the law ill conceived and said it would have scared companies away.

The city council said it would take the appropriate action to stop the law from being overturned.

The law is not to be confused with the Living Wage Bill which is targeted more at retail workers at city subsidized projects and requires they be paid a minimum of $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 without. The Bloomberg Administration also sued to stop that legislation but lost in federal court and was contemplating a second challenge in state court. 

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