New York Leaders Denounce Court Ruling Striking Prevailing Wage

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Letitia "Tish" James

[New York City]

Last year New York's City Council passed a law called "prevailing wage" that mandated $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 an hour without benefits for workers such as janitors or for employees at companies with substantial City contracts or where the city was a tenant.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the City Council's bill but the Council overrode the veto. Bloomberg than sued the City Council seeking to block the law.

A State Supreme Court judge yesterday sided with Bloomberg and struck down the law, bringing swift reaction from some of New York's leading politicians. The minimum wage in New York, after all, is only $7.25 an hour.

Initially approved by the Council in April 2012, prevailing wage would require recipients of major city subsidies to pay building service workers a wage rate set by the New York City Comptroller. Currently, prevailing wages are set by the Comptroller for work on public projects, though the wages differ by occupation and are meant to reflect current union rates. “I renew my support for the prevailing wage legislation, and join my colleagues in the fight for higher union-level wages for workers in buildings where the City is the major leaseholder,” said Council Member Letitia James, who is a candidate for Public Advocate. “In his decision Justice Wright recognized that—contrary to arguments from the administration— this legislation is beneficial to many of the City’s service workers and good for our local economy.”Here reference is to Justice Geoffrey D. Wright of New York State Supreme Court."The decision striking down the City Council's prevailing wage law is a loss for working men and women," said City Comptroller John C. Liu, who is a Mayoral candidate. "Workers employed in structures that receive major City subsidies or where the City occupies significant space should be entitled to a prevailing wage. We must continue to fight to ensure all New Yorkers receive fair compensation for their work.”

"Today's decision striking down the City's prevailing wage ordinance is a setback in our effort to ensure that New York CIty's economic development dollars support solid, middle-class jobs," added Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer, who is a candidate for Comptroller. "At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet, we should embrace progressive policy that closes the income gap and supports an economy that is built from the middle-up. The bottom line is that no New Yorker should work full time for poverty-level wages, especially on projects supported with taxpayer dollars. I urge the Council and advocates to use every legal avenue to overrule this disappointing decision."

Mayor Bloomberg claims the higher wages would drive business out of the City. 

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