City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn
Friday, January, 13, 2012
Living Wage Legislation

Remarks as prepared

For the past year, we have had a debate in the City Council about how to bring more jobs to New York in a way that raises salaries and does not stagnate job growth.

Some have said we should do that by letting the market run its course. Some have said that we should do it by replicating what many major cities in America have done: place a wage requirement on any jobs that are developed through public subsidies. Others have said we should go a step further and put that same requirement on tenants of developments that are built with public subsidies.

I want to thank everyone who has offered support, opposition, data, agreement and disagreement on all three of these perspectives. This has been a worthy debate.

There is nothing more important for government right now than the work of creating and retaining the best jobs we can.

As Speaker, one of my jobs is to do all that I can to keep and create jobs in New York and to make sure those jobs provide people with the resources they need to support their families.

I could not support the original living wage bill as it was introduced.

The requirement that tenants in subsidized projects pay more when the city has no financial connection with them is a provision that I believe would have cost us future retail jobs. Placing this requirement on businesses that don’t receive a direct benefit is simply unfair.

That said, I want to be clear that more needs to be done to raise the wages of retail workers, and I want to thank in particular Stu Appelbaum for articulately raising that issue.

Today, I also want to announce that I, together with my colleagues Oliver Koppel and Annabel Palma, will introduce a new piece of legislation next month. This legislation will require companies that receive substantial subsidies from the City of New York to pay their employees a living wage of $10 or $11.50, depending on benefits.

I believe it is fair and appropriate for government to place requirements on a business that has voluntarily entered into an economic development agreement with the City. At the end of the day, they have a choice as to whether or not they want both the money offered to them and the wage requirements.

This is a policy that is fair, one that will help workers, will not deter job growth and is one that I am honored to support.

I want to thank Oliver Koppell, Annabel Palma, Ruben Diaz and Stu Appelbaum, who have been valiant in their efforts to raise the issue of the needs of low paid workers.

I also want to thank Kathy Wylde, the Partnership for New York City and the business and real estate community, who have worked with us to ensure that jobs are protected and encouraged, and that the future of our city’s economy is strong.

No one bill can single handedly raises wages for all minimum wage workers. But we will take a fair and philosophically sound step forward.

Legislation is powerful but by its nature it can be limited. The issue of raising the salaries of workers in a way that promotes job growth is complicated and deserves a more comprehensive response than just legislation.

That is why I believe that our city’s Economic Development Corporation must have a policy goal of negotiating development packages that result in not just the recipients of subsidies creating higher wage jobs, but also their tenants. That is what we negotiated with the Domino Sugar Factory project.

The power of a negotiating process is that it provides the ability to craft each deal differently. In fact, both Los Angeles and San Francisco have achieved most of the jobs where they have raised salaries through the negotiations of their economic development corporations and the policies those agencies have set.

EDC should also use other measures at its disposal, such as giving higher points in an RFP process for applicants who have wall-to-wall higher wages.

As I’ve said, this is complicated. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach when trying to cover tenants and retail workers who have not gotten a direct subsidy.

We need to explore other models beyond legislative mandates. That is why in next year’s capital budget we will allocate money to the Economic Development Corporation and work with them to put out and RFEI and eventually and RFP to developers and retailers who are looking for subsidies that would place a requirement that tenants pay a living wage.

I believe that is an exercise that will help us and EDC determine how to best structure future programs.

I am happy to take questions now. Thank you.

City Council Press Office: 212-788-7116