First, a re-cap of what this legislation is all about. The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act will require businesses that rent space in large developments receiving city subsidies to pay their workers at least $10 per hour, which is considered the living wage for single New York City residents with no dependents. That's not much money, considering that New York City is the most expensive city in the country, but it is at least higher than the $7.25 minimum wage. The argument against the bill, being tossed around by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others, is that the legislation will put a damper on development and job growth in the city.
One city that's already gone down this path is San Francisco, which signed wide-reaching living wage legislation into law in 2000, and has since beefed up those laws even further. University of California Berkeley Labor Center Chair Ken Jacobs recently examined San Francisco's living wage experiment, and found some heartening results:
"San Francisco's labor standards laws do not appear to be deterring retailers who want to locate in the city or developers looking for tenants or project financing. A new Lowe's just opened up in the city, just a short drive from their existing store in South San Francisco, which has no labor standards requirements beyond what is in state law."
"The verdict is clear: labor standards policies of the kind San Francisco put in place improve workers' income, productivity and health, reduce turnover and decrease job vacancies; they have not reduced the number of jobs."
"This is good news indeed for the workers and businesses in cities, such as New York, that are considering new living wage policies on economic development programs. San Francisco may be unique in the breadth of protections we provide our workers, but we are not special in our need to improve labor standards."
What's more, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member David Campos issued a letter to the New York City Council last week, urging them to pass the living wage law. Via the New York Observer: "Dear Council Members, I am writing to encourage your support for the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act. San Francisco has a long history of similar labor standards legislation. I hope you will consider our experience as you make your decision."
Right now, the bill is said to have 29 sponsors, which is five short of the two-thirds majority the council will need to override the mayor's veto. What we're hoping is that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, said to be the "wild card" in this decision, will support the legislation. To date, she has refused to take sides.
Urge Quinn to help New York City follow in San Francisco's footsteps. Urge her to support the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act.