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New York City’s ‘Living Wage’ Law Withstands Mayoral Challenge

The point of the New York’s prevailing wage law is to ensure that city government contractors and subcontractors pay their building service and construction workers no less than the prevailing rate of wage and benefits, as set by the New York City Office of the Comptroller.Those with the right to make New York prevailing wage claims include:

  • construction workers under a public works contract on a city-owned facility;
  • building service employees who work security, cleaning, clerical or food services details in a city-owned building;
  • transport service workers in a city-owned building;
  • providers of certain home attendant services, day care providers or head start services to residents of New York City.

Similar to the state’s law was a bill passed by the New York City Council last year, requiring that any company that receives $1 million or more in tax breaks or financing has to pay its workers either a minimum of $10 hourly with benefits, or $11.50 without benefits.

At the time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the measure.Council overrode it. Bloomberg wouldn’t drop it. He appealed that decision in federal court.

Now, he’s lost.

A federal judge in Manhattan dismissed that appeal, holding that the mayor didn’t have standing in the matter, as he failed to prove a suffering of any concrete or particular injury if the bill was enacted.

Despite the fact that the measure would boost paychecks for thousands of low-wage workers in the city, Bloomberg has vowed to continue the fight. He announced intentions to take the case to state court, where he anticipates the case will receive an outcome more favorable to his position.

Bloomberg has been a vocal opponent of increased minimum wage rates for low-income workers. A similar bill, called the “prevailing wage bill,” was also passed by the city and would raise minimum wage for all security guards in the city. However, it was the same story: Bloomberg vetoed the bill, council overrode it and now the city is suing city council. That case is still pending.

Many view living wages as an important issue because they are based on an area’s cost of living, as opposed to an arbitrary minimum that is applicable throughout the state or country. As we in New York City all know, the cost-of-living here far exceeds what you can expect to pay in other areas of the country.

In fact, research by the Council for Community and Economic Research determined last year that New York City is home to three of the top five highest cost of living areas in the country, with Manhattan ranking No. 1, followed by Brooklyn at No. 2. Queens ranks No. 5. In Manhattan, the standard of living is more than twice the national average.

The Living Wage Project reports that while the 2012 minimum wage was $725, that was far below the nearly $12 an hour it takes to scrape by here.

Setting a wage of $10 an hour plus benefits (or $11.50 without benefits) gets us much closer to what people living in the city need to earn in order to survive.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides employment litigation representation in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or send us an e-mail.

Additional Resources:
Mayor Bloomberg defeated in court, judge tosses suit against ‘living wage’ bill, July 2, 2013, By Jennifer Fermino, New York Daily News
More Blog Entries:
Proliferation of Overtime Lawsuits Expected to Continue, July 25, 2013, New York City Employment Lawyer Blog