From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/vision/151258/a_national_living_wage_fight_finds_a_battleground_in_nyc%3A_%27we_aren%27t_here_just_to_survive%2C_we_want_to_live%27/
The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act has garnered strong support among the city's labor and religious communities, but has run up against big-moneyed, powerful interests.
By Lauren Kelley
June 10, 2011
June 10, 2011
"Mayor Bloomberg, enough is enough!" Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said at a lively May 12 rally organized by grassroots group Living Wage NYC. "If your friends don't want to pay us a living wage, then don't take our tax dollars!"
Diaz, a reliable supporter of New York City workers' rights, introduced the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act in the spring of 2010. It was this legislation that brought hundreds of living wage supporters together on May 12, when the bill finally, after more than a year of delays and false starts, received its first City Council hearing.
Although the bill is far from sweeping (it would merely guarantee a $10-$11.50 hourly wage for the estimated 3 percent of New York City workers who are employed by companies in city-subsidized developments), it has garnered strong support among the city's labor activists, religious community and local leaders -- support that has been met, with equal measure, by propaganda-pushing from the Bloomberg administration and resistance from powerful businesses. All the while, living wage activists around the country are watching with great interest as the knock-down, drag-out fight plays out, as it could set the stage for the success or failure of living-wage battles elsewhere.
How did a relatively toothless piece of legislation become such a hotly debated, nationally watched issue? It happened in part because the outer boroughs of New York City have seen income disparities grow wildly in recent years -- something residents of many other urban areas can relate to. Ruben Diaz, Jr. wrote about the issue in an op-ed adapted from his May 12 City Council testimony:
[W]e have tremendous income inequality in this city, which is not just a local problem but a national cause of concern. The middle class, both locally and nationally, are working harder and earning less. As important, the working poor in our city are being forced to work multiple jobs for an ever-lower standard of living if not being forced to get food stamps, emergency housing and other government assistance. Our economic policies should facilitate upward mobility. Instead, they are accelerating a downward spiral, in which our middle- and working-class families have less and less and where our tax dollars and other city resources are instead being used to facilitate low-wage job creation.