With great fanfare and ceremony earlier today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the City Council’s prevailing wage bill, which would have mandated higher wages for buildings that receive tax breaks from the city. His passionate speech before vetoing the bill even referenced the World Trade Center attacks in the opening sentence in order to discuss the city’s economic history over the past decade.
Nevertheless, as can be expected when the mayor takes such a firm step against progressive legislation, unions and ambitious elected officials have sent out a barrage of statements reacting to the move, which The Politicker has assembled below.
Long story short: They would like the City Council to override Mr. Bloomberg’s veto, which is almost sure to happen as Council Speaker Christine Quinn has vowed to do so.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio:
“With his veto pen, Mayor Bloomberg has let ideology trump common sense. Government should not sit on its hands as the middle class crumbles. The Prevailing Wage bill is a meaningful step to address income inequality and build a strong middle class. We can’t let this fight end here. The City Council should immediately override the Mayor’s veto. New York City can and should be a national leader in supporting good jobs for working people.”
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer:
“The working people of New York City have a fundamental right to wage they can live on, and the Mayor has rejected that idea in his regrettable veto action today. Along with millions of other New Yorkers, I look forward to the City Council swiftly overriding this action and taking the first steps towards genuine wage equity for all people in New York City.”
Comptroller John Liu:
“As a City employee the Mayor continues to ignore the widening wealth gap within the five boroughs. In opposing these bills, he is sending the wrong message, that our scarce taxpayer resources are better spent on lining the pockets of wealthy corporate executives rather than creating fair-paying jobs to support working families and the communities in which they live. Needless to say, my office looks forward to the Council overriding these vetoes, and to continuing to enforce Prevailing Wage Laws, which help promote equality and fairness in our City.”
And Speaker Quinn, who had by far the shortest statement on the matter:
“It is disappointing that the Mayor today chose to veto a bill that would raise the standard of living for a group of working New Yorkers, and declared his intent to veto another. The City Council will move quickly to override these vetoes.
“My Council colleagues and I believe not enough has been done to help more New Yorkers reach the middle class. Over the last two decades, the City has become a more desirable place to live, work and visit. We need to make sure that even more New Yorkers share in that prosperity.
“But too many hard working families today feel the effects of a painful financial squeeze. The combination of a high cost of living, shortage of good jobs, lack of affordable housing and poor performing schools makes it hard for middle class families—and their children—to get ahead, or even hold their own. According to the Center for Economic Opportunity, 21% of New Yorkers live below the poverty line. Median real household income has fallen by 2.2% in the last four years.
“This is why the Council is committed to finding ways to get – and keep – New Yorkers working. But it isn’t enough to just create jobs. We need to make sure that whenever possible, those jobs pay enough to support a family and join the middle class.
“Last month, the Council passed legislation to require a prevailing wage for building service employees in certain buildings that receive a taxpayer subsidy, or where the City pays the majority of the rent. This includes economic development projects of at least 100,000 square feet that receive more than $1 million in taxpayer assistance. It also includes office buildings where the City leases at least 10,000 square feet and a majority of the total space.
“As we work to protect middle class families, we have also gone to great lengths to avoid putting an onerous burden on business. Both the prevailing and living wage bills have been narrowly tailored to effect only direct recipients of City financing. If a business isn’t looking for taxpayer dollars, they’re under no obligation to meet these requirements.
“The Mayor has argued that these bills would interfere with the free market. In fact, that is precisely what the City’s development incentive program is designed to do – to alter the market to favor businesses that provide a public benefit by creating jobs in New York City rather than another location.
“This year alone, city benefits to businesses and developers will cost taxpayers nearly $250 million. All we are trying to do is ensure that taxpayer investment is going to subsidize jobs that pay a reasonable wage.
“These bills are also consistent with the Mayor’s own track record on development and wages.
“We stood proudly with Mayor Bloomberg in 2002 when he signed into law prevailing and living wage requirements for home health aides, day care workers, and some building service workers whose companies have contracts with the City. At that time he said, ‘I hope this bill will strengthen the workforce by providing a competitive wage to employees who do this difficult work.’
“This law covered 60,000 workers, making it the largest living wage law in the nation. Not only did it fail to undermine the free market, it helped tens of thousands of New Yorkers raise their families out of poverty to join the middle class.
“And let’s remember that when the Mayor signed this bill in 2002, it did not hurt New York’s economy. In fact, it was done during a recession and before one of the greatest economic booms in our City’s history – a boom Mayor Bloomberg and the Council can be proud of helping create.
“Further, the Bloomberg administration has negotiated wage agreements in numerous economic development projects, including Citifield, Yankee Stadium, and Atlantic Yards. They recognized that subsidies should not come without any responsibility to taxpayers.
“I also stand with the Mayor in his support of State legislation to increase the minimum wage. But we cannot and will not wait for Albany to take action, especially when there is action we can take here in New York City to help more families access the middle class.
“It’s called a living wage for a reason. Because residents of the five boroughs need it in order to survive. When we use taxpayer dollars for any purpose, taxpayers expect it will provide the maximum public good to the city. If we provide a taxpayer subsidy in exchange for jobs, we expect jobs that pay a better wage than the minimum wage.
“New York City will only remain the greatest city in the world by providing a high quality of life, attracting the best talent, and protecting our middle class.
“The Council stands by this legislation, and my colleagues and I look forward to overriding the Mayor’s veto.”
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum:
“Growing income inequality in Michael Bloomberg’s New York City has become a national disgrace. More than forty percent of all income in New York City goes to one percent of the city’s population. Good jobs have been replaced by poverty-wage jobs.
The Bloomberg administration’s position on wage mandates is incoherent and fiscally irresponsible. Over the past decade, City Hall has expanded government’s role in the market through billions in subsidies to companies and developers, but doesn’t want taxpayers to get a decent return on their investment. That’s unacceptable.
The major legacy of Michael Bloomberg’s administration will be growing income inequality. Too many New Yorkers are struggling to survive.”