New York City Needs a Real Living Wage
By Margaret Chin
The Huffington Post
Dec. 7, 2011
Last week, the New York City Council debated the "Fair
Wages for New Yorkers Act," which would establish a
minimum hourly wage, or a "living wage," of $10 per
hour plus benefits -- or $11.50 without benefits -- for
workers hired by companies that receive more than $1
million in city subsidies. The bill was recently
amended to apply only to companies that make over $5
million a year in revenue. Citywide, the bill would
affect approximately five to six development projects
annually, according to the Independent Budget Office.
Donald Spivack, who drafted living wage policy for the
City of Los Angeles, testified that the policy has not
deterred investment or development, even in low-income
areas where interest in development is already weak.
This criticism has been most-often leveled by Mayor
Bloomberg, who has patronized the legislation as "a
nice idea but poorly thought out."
Last week, the Fiscal Policy Institute, an independent
research group, released a report entitled, "The State
of Working in New York 2011: Smaller Incomes, Fewer
Opportunities, More Hardships." Over the last four
years, weekly earnings for workers in the lower half of
the wage spectrum -- those who make less than $52,300
in actual earnings annually -- have declined 3.4
percent in New York City. Compare this to a wage
increase of 8.6 percent over the same time period for
those making more than $52,300 (the NYS median wage)
and the disparity is clear.
The chances of making a decent living in New York City
have steadily declined since the start of the
recession. New York City has lost over 121,000 middle-
and high-wage jobs since July 2008. Over the same
period, job growth only occurred in low-wage
industries, or those paying below $45,000 a year, which
added 69,000 jobs. This is mirrored at the state level.
Not even our degrees can save us. Over the last four
years, median hourly wages for those with a Bachelor's
degree have fallen by 4 percent, or 1.7 percent each
year. This is not a new trend. Since 1990, the portion
of low-wage workers in New York City with some college
education has increased by 70 percent, but wages for
low-income workers as a whole have declined by 8
percent, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.
Margaret S. Chin is a City Council member in New York
(For the entire article, go
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