Perhaps it would have been better if Council Speaker Christine Quinn simply came out in favor of the so-called “living wage” bill without any changes or revisions. At least she would have been taking a stand. Not a very smart stand, but a stand all the same.
Instead, the speaker has cobbled together a bill that is being touted as a “compromise.” Ms. Quinn’s version of the bill would contain some exemptions to the “living wage” legislation, but the heart of the bill remains the same. The city will require that a host of businesses and contractors pay employees $11.50 an hour if they don’t offer benefits, $10 an hour if they do. The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
The speaker was under considerable pressure from unions and other special interests to get this bill passed. As she prepares for a mayoral campaign next year, Ms. Quinn had a choice: She could have either shown real leadership by rejecting the “living wage” bill as little more than political pandering, or she could have supported the bill and won the political and financial support of job-killing unions.
She chose to try to have it both ways. In an attempt to appease skeptics of the “living wage” concept, she will exempt employees of businesses that rent space in subsidized buildings. But workers in businesses that receive city subsidies or employees of contractors and subcontractors working on subsidized developments will have to pay the higher wage.
The result probably will please nobody and exposes Speaker Quinn as a weak politician who will look to cut deals rather than stand up for principle, as Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Cuomo are doing for school reform.
The “living wage” concept is antithetical to the values of a competitive, free-market system that has made New York the center of global capitalism. Sadly, Speaker Quinn has flunked this critical test of her leadership abilities.