Legislation ensures tax dollars support middle class wages
New York, NY- Today, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito, Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., Council Member Margaret S. Chin, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Council Member Robert Jackson, Council Member Andy King, Council Member Steve Levin, Council Member Rosie Mendez and Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, rallied against the New York State Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Council’s prevailing wage legislation. The law requires that a prevailing wage be paid to all building service employees working at economic development projects receiving more than $1 million in discretionary financial assistance, of at least 100,000 square feet. The legislation would also cover building service employees working in office buildings where the City leases at least 10,000 square feet and a majority of the total space. The Court erroneously decided that the law was preempted by State minimum wage laws – officials promised to quickly appeal the ruling. The announcement was made today at City Hall.

“It’s getting harder and harder for middle class families to afford to stay in New York City,” said Speaker Quinn. “That’s why I’m proud to have passed this prevailing wage bill, making sure that taxpayer dollars are used to create jobs that pay good middle class wages, and why we will move quickly to appeal this decision. We will never stop fighting for middle class New Yorkers, using every possible legal tool at our disposal. This legislation is not about modifying the minimum wage – instead it is about setting standards for those who lease space to the City or accept economic development subsidies.”

“Yesterday’s decision reminds all New Yorkers of the Mayor’s relentless opposition to legislation that helps create anything but low-wage jobs,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I was the proud sponsor of the prevailing wage bill in the Council, which sends a strong message that large developers receiving hefty taxpayer-funded subsidies need to be held accountable for the creation middle class jobs. We in the Council will continue to fight Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to strike down this law.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure this decision isn’t the last word on prevailing wage. Building service employees in New York City deserve a fair shot at making a quality living with a reasonable wage and taxpayers deserve to know that their money isn’t being used to undercut their neighbors,” said Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., Chair of the Council Finance Committee.

“The State Supreme Court’s decision against prevailing wage is disappointing, but it is not the end of the road. In New York City, we know the importance of good middle-class jobs, and we will begin appeal process right away to ensure that our economic development supports working families,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin.

Council Member Steve Levin said, “The decision yesterday to strike down the Council’s prevailing wage legislation is disappointing and will hurt the working people of New York City. Under the leadership of Speaker Quinn, we will – and must – appeal the ruling so that the working men and women of our city are paid wages they can live on.”

“Good, middle class jobs are necessary to keep our City strong,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “When there are significant city resources in a project, it is essential that those developers use those resources in a way that is responsible. I am proud to fight for the workers who will be benefited from the implementation of prevailing wage legislation and will continue fighting to get it accomplished and to win the appeal.”

“The decision handed down today by the State Supreme Court is a step in the wrong direction for New York City. Mayor Bloomberg has consistently shown through his efforts that he is out of touch with the middle class and low income workers. I strongly disagree with the ruling and look forward to working with my colleagues in the Council to proceed with an appeal,” said Council Member Andy L. King.

“The City Council thoughtfully tailored a Prevailing Wage Law to recognize an important and compelling imperative: projects that receive substantial governmental subsidies must create good and meaningful jobs—that help New Yorkers live, grow, thrive and plan for the future,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez. “Anything less is, frankly—beneath us, both as a matter of public policy and humanity. Therefore, I am confident that the decision by the State Supreme Court will be challenged and that we will take all necessary steps to ensure that public projects are always the source of shared and collective benefits for all.”

“It is very disappointing that the State Supreme Court has decided to strike down legislation that was specifically created to help improve the lives of New Yorkers,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras. “For so many low-income and working people across our City, this legislation would have had an immeasurable impact on their quality of life. I thank Speaker Quinn for her leadership on this issue, and I appreciate the perseverance and hard work of my fellow Council Members as we continue to fight for the needs of all New Yorkers.”

Council Member Jessica Lappin said, “The court’s decision is disappointing, but we’ll continue to fight for what’s right. If a company gets city subsidies, they should pay their workers prevailing wages.”

“Yesterday’s decision to invalidate the prevailing wage law is an unfortunate set-back for the working men and women of New York City. However, it is telling that the judge in this case recognized the merits of such a law, and condemned Mayor Bloomberg for his opposition to it. I remain hopeful that with Speaker Quinn and my colleagues on the Council, we can appeal this decision and ensure that all workers in our city, particularly on projects benefitting from city subsidies, can earn a decent living,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer.

“I was proud to work closely with Speaker Quinn to pass sensible prevailing wage legislation to help working families provide a better life for their children and themselves,” said Council Member Inez Dickens. “We need a strong and vibrant middle class in this city, and the prevailing wage bill was an important means of ensuring workers can afford to live here, not just work here. This ruling may be a setback but it’s not the end of our fight for fair wages for workers in this city.”

“I believe that people working for private companies receiving public money need to receive a prevailing wage. If a private company is receiving money from our great city, we must ensure that the New Yorkers who work for them can afford the cost of living. As one of the Councilmembers who stood in solidarity with our minimum wage workers by living on the budget of many of my constituents, I am all too familiar with the struggle of trying to get by without the necessary resources. It is becoming harder for New Yorkers to afford living in their own city and we need to stop this trend,” said Council Member Donovan Richards.

Council Member Annabel Palma said, “Working New Yorkers were dealt a blow yesterday by the court’s decision striking down the prevailing wage law. The City Council passed this law over the Mayor’s veto and defended it in court. But, as the court noted, the Mayor has shown nothing but ‘zeal’ in his efforts to block it from going into effect. Well I will continue the fight with Speaker Quinn and this Council to see that he is unsuccessful. In a city where people are being priced out of their homes and communities, it is only right that this law stands.”

“The court’s decision will not sway our determination in fighting to improve the lives of workers,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “We will appeal this ruling so that this common sense legislation can improve the lives of thousands.”

“We believe the decision issued yesterday is unclear and confusing, and, more importantly, sets back the timeline for building service workers employed in city buildings to be paid what other building workers across New York make,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEI. “This is about equity, and this is about city dollars going towards good, family-sustaining jobs. We will take all available steps to appeal this decision and achieve an outcome that better serves the people of New York.”

“The prevailing wage law is an important tool to ensure that city subsidies support middle class jobs. I commend the Council for committing to appeal this disappointing State Supreme Court Decision and look forward to the day where these hard working citizens receive the wages they are entitled to under this law,” said Javier Valdes, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York.

“We respectfully believe that the court got it wrong. New York City has been successfully using living wage and prevailing wage standards for companies receiving city contracts since 2002. It can’t possibly be correct that state law prevents the city from asking for the same from companies that receive multi-million dollar subsidy packages from the city,” said Paul Sonn, legal co-director at the National Employment Law Project.