In a letter sent yesterday to Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said it's time to take action on a Living Wage bill. The bill, which is currently in limbo in the City Council, would require some companies receiving city tax breaks to pay employees $10 an hour plus benefits or $11.50 without. De Blasio is expected to face Quinn in the Democratic primary for mayor, and the debate over a living wage has put Quinn in a difficult position, because the business community and her mentor Mayor Bloomberg are firmly opposed to it.
In his letter (below), de Blasio calls the bill an "immediate and important" step for the city. "Over the last decade, we have not done enough to grow the prospects of all New Yorkers," de Blasio wrote in the letter. " Government must assert itself as a force on the side of the middle class, using all tools to encourage economic activity that creates jobs, and ensure that workers experience the benefits that are associated with that economic activity. This has not been the City’s approach to date in its contracting process, pension investments, or in the regulation of businesses. In no place is the potential for that role stronger, and the missed opportunity greater, than in the case of the economic development subsidies that the City dispenses through the Economic Development Corporation. "
But de Blasio is calling for one change to the bill: protecting smaller businesses by increasing the amount of annual revenue, from $5 million, that a business must earn to cause the requirement to kick in. Quinn's spokesperson tells the Times, "We appreciate his input." It's up to Quinn to call for a vote on the matter, and she has yet to indicate where she stands. Last month Bloomberg's Deputy Mayor Robert Steel warned that the bill would jeopardize affordable housing projects and cost the city entry-level jobs, as well as skilled construction jobs as "many projects become financially unfeasible."