Mayor Michael Bloomberg explained his opposition to the “Fair Wages For New Yorkers Act,” also known as the “Living Wage Bill,” at a press conference celebrating the new taxi bill in Inwood today. In response to a question from The Politicker, Mayor Bloomberg said he’d be willing to “take a look at” at a hypothetical, modified version of the bill, but he thinks New York needs to stay consistent with the federal minimum wage and the rate in neighboring states. He also believes working long hours for low pay is a key part of the “American dream.”
“Fundamentally, I believe that the marketplace has got to set these things, we’re in competition with other cities,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “I would love to have everybody who has a job in this city get well paid and have all sorts of benefits.I think it is also practical to say that there are jobs that just would never support those kinds of benefits and the economics just dont work in those industries.”The Mayor has been a longtime opponent of the living wage legislation. In his eyes, the living wage bill, which would mandate minimum wages of $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 per hour without benefits on city-subsidized projects, could cause businesses to move elsewhere. Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Minimum wages in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania all currently match the federal rate. He said it’s important to balance the interests of both workers and businesses.
“Finding some ways to try to balance–I for example am a very big proponent of the minimum wage bill when they come up, but having said that, you can’t do something in one place if across the street they do something different. You can’t do something in one city where businesses can easily move,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “There’s no easy answer here, but in the end, we want to make sure, particularly in this day and age, that we find as many jobs as we can for people. Even if they’re entry level jobs and they dont pay, it’s a start.”
Mayor Bloomberg pointed out that low wage jobs can be good for undereducated young people.
“One of the things that a lot of young people need–particularly those that dont have the formal education that modern day good paying jobs require–they need a chance to get out there and realize at a very young age what it is like to work, to show up to work collaboratively and collectively,” said Mayor Bloomberg.
He also said there is a long, proud American tradition of hard, low paying work.
“The great American history–story is that people come here and they got off the boat, they went through Ellis Island, they waved to the Statue of Liberty and they took jobs that,–they just weren’t the greatest jobs and they certainly didn’t pay well, but they worked and sometimes they took two jobs and they never took a day off,” he said.
The mayor also reminisced about his own family’s experience.
“My father worked seven days a week, as far as I remember, all his life,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We weren’t poor, but he didn’t make a lot of money and that’s just the American dream.”
The future of the living wage bill in currently in the hands of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has the power to decide whether or not to bring it to a vote. Speaker Quinn has not come out for or against the measure. A majority of council members support the bill. If the bill passes the council, Mayor Bloomberg will have the power to veto it, but the council can overrule him with a two thirds majority.