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Queens Chronicle

City Council nixes mayor’s wage veto

Service workers rally at City Hall

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Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 10:38 am, Thu May 24, 2012.

Despite the rainy weather Tuesday, the mood was jubilant as members of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ rallied on the steps of City Hall, to show their support for the Good Jobs Act, minutes before a scheduled City Council vote on the legislation.

The Council voted 44-4 to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s April 25 veto of the measure, referred to as the Prevailing Wage Bill. He said the city’s economy would suffer by forcing specified employers to pay certain workers higher wages, to the detriment of the taxpayers.

The legislation requires companies that receive at least $1 million in subsidies from the city in financially assisted facilities, and those in city-leased buildings, to pay building service employees, such as cleaners and repairmen, what supporters feel is an appropriate and livable wage.

The wage will be determined by the city comptroller’s prevailing wage scale.

The legislation is very similar to the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, known as the Living Wage Bill, which was passed by the City Council on April 30.

Bloomberg has vowed to veto that bill too, and, if the Council overrides him, to go to court to block it.

The mayor intends to do the same for the Prevailing Wage Bill, but this week it was the union and its supporters that had a victory.

“Nobody working full time should be in poverty,” Hector Figueroa, the 32BJ secretary-treasurer, at a press conference held minutes before the City Council override hearing, with union members cheering behind him.

“Nobody ... working in a place that’s been subsidized by the city should be forced to rely on public subsidies, food stamps or the like, to be able to make it in the city,” Figueroa added.

Figueroa introduced Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) who outlined what she believes is most compelling about the bill, while thanking colleagues and supporters, including members of 32BJ.

“We will, in a little while, go upstairs to the Council chambers, and we will override the veto,” Quinn said to cheers and rally chants from the crowd.

“And we will do it with an extremely significant majority of the City Council members,” the speaker added.

It was reported that three of the Council’s Republicans voted against the veto, as did Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria). Vallone also opposed the Living Wage Bill.

“If you’re getting taxpayer dollars, you have to treat taxpayers with a high standard of wages,” Quinn said moments before leaving the rally to attend the veto vote. “You’re the people that keep New York the financial capital of the world.”

Assembly OKs wage hike

The state Assembly voted Tuesday to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour and from $5 to $5.86 per hour for food-service workers who receive tips. The rate would then be indexed to inflation. Whether the more conservative Senate will pass the bill is an open question, and Gov. Cuomo has not publicly indicated whether he would sign it.

“During this difficult economic time, raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do,” Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) said. “Simply put, people who work full time shouldn’t be poor.”

Mayor Bloomberg supports the bill, but many others in the business community across the state do not.

“After the passage of Tier VI pension reform, a fiscally responsible budget and other business-friendly initiatives, the Assembly has taken a step in the wrong direction,” the Business Council of New York said. “Raising the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour would cost an extra $2,900 per full-time employee in 2013. It’s unconscionable to place this burden on small-business owners, who are already struggling under state-imposed mandates.”

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