City Comptroller John Liu is slated to appear at a public forum entitled “Why Are We Funding Low-Wage Jobs” at the Brooklyn College Graduate Center for Worker Education this afternoon that labor and progressive groups hope kicks off a major effort to create a living wage standard for city projects.
Earlier this week, Christine Quinn announced that a hearing would be held on the matter next month, but backers of the bill are determined not to allow this measure to fall by the wayside, as happened with their last legislative push--paid sick leave, which, despite a majority of the Council’s support was not brought to the floor for a vote.
That Liu is kicking off this push is significant. He is strong supporter of the measure and backers say they are counting him on to use his bully pulpit on the matter.
“Liu is absolutely critical,” said one union official. “He is in a very unique position. He has a long history on living wage issues from when he was in the Council. He is in some ways the most critical ally to have, and the fact of the matter is he now has a citywide perch to push for reform.”
While in the Council Liu helped push a living wage law for service contractors.
“The concept is simple–that the city ought to have standards in terms of the quality of jobs created,” Liu said. “I do believe that it is not in the interest of city taxpayers to give away large subsidies without certain standards.”
The bill in question would require that all large city projects which receive taxpayer subsidies pay a living wage. Although since Liu is no longer in the Council he would not have a vote on the bill, if the measure passes it would give the Comptroller’s office enforcement power of the city’s Economic Development Council to insure that the law is carried out. Liu has made oversight of EDC a central plank of his tenure in the Comptroller’s office.
Liu is also a potential 2013 mayoral candidate, and backers of the measure hope that by spotlighting the issue he is able to force Quinn, also a 2013 possibility, into supporting it.
Supporters of the measure also see a far more involved effort in this campaigned compared with the paid sick bill push. Not only are the Progressive Caucus and the Black, Latino and Asian caucus making it a major priority, but the bill has the support of the Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz and the Bronx delegation of the City Council. Plus, area church leaders have indicated that the bill is a major priority for them, and they have told Council members that they intend to hold them accountable for their votes.