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On Deck For City Council: Living Wage Bill
New York Daily News - Daily Politics
Celeste Katz

November 22, 2011
View the Original Article

After weeks of street warfare, labor advocates and business leaders are set to battle it out at a public City Council hearing Tuesday over the controversial living wage bill.

Our Reuven Blau reports:

All eyes will be on City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who has repeatedly ducked the issue. "She'll be there listening to the testimony," a source close to her said.

As the fight for public support heats up, the bill's backers Monday notched a key symbolic boost from the city's Archdiocese.

"We have a very strong position on the need for decent jobs with fair wages and benefits," said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese. He stressed that the Catholic Church does not endorse legislation.

The politically divisive, so-called "living wage" proposal would force firms that get city tax breaks to pay workers $10 an hour, plus benefits-up from the current $7.25 minimum hourly wage.

Several city power brokers are among those set to testify at today's hearing. That includes Ruben Diaz Jr., Bronx Borough president; Stuart Appelbaum, president of the 100-000 member Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; and Andrew Rigie, executive vice president of the New York State Restaurant Association.

The legislation has major labor support, but it is strongly opposed by businesses leaders and Mayor Bloomberg, who has labeled the bill a job killer.

That argument was driven home on Monday during a press conference on Staten Island to herald a new grocery store under construction with $2 million in city subsidies.

The owners of the store said they would never have been able to open if the living wage bill were already law.

"It would be almost impossible because our profit margin is very low," Joseph Doleh said. "The reason we're doing this is because of the tax benefits. Otherwise, it would be almost impossible to do."

Doleh said he generally starts all employees at the $7.25 federal minimum wage, giving them a chance to work up $10 or $12 an hour.

Below is a letter from Deputy Mayor Robert Steel to a long list of people and organizations who wrote to him on the matter.

Steel Letter Re Living Wage