‘Best’ Living Wage Law Is in San Jose

30 Apr

The long debated and delayed living wage legislation, emanating from an epic land use battle at the Kingsbridge Armory, is coming to a vote today.

A press release drafted by the retail workers union and the Living Wage NYC Coalition, which we received from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s office yesterday, states: “Culminating an historic two-year campaign that created a citywide living wage movement that sets the standards for nationwide policies, the final Living Wage Bill will be voted on by the New York City Council at the stated meeting this coming Monday.”

The ” sets-the-standards” language is consistent with Diaz and his staff repeatedly reffering to the legislation as the “best” in the country.

The Council legislation here initially affected retailers in developments receiving taxpayer subsidies. But it was eventually gutted to only include employees of the developer and then further whittled down by Council Speaker Christine Quinn exempting workers at a massive development on the west side of Manhattan. Estimates now indicate that about 400 workers will benefit from the NYC legislation and only if the Council can override the mayor’s vowed veto.

As far as we know, only Riverdale Press reporter Adam Wisnieski  has bothered to check out the claim that this bill is the “best” in the land. He found that through a 1998 law in San Jose, more workers receive higher pay  in a city about an eighth the size of NYC.

Approximately 600 workers were affected in San Jose, a city with less than 1 million people when a living wage law was passed in 1998, according to a study on living wage by the University of Washington. The subsidy threshold is lower than what will be required to trigger the law New York. The definition of “living wage” also changes with the cost of living.

Right now, any developer receiving $100,000 or more in taxpayer subsides in San Jose is required to pay $13.59 per hour with health benefits or $14.84 per hour without benefits, according to the city’s website.

Compare that to New York’s $1 million subsidy threshold and requirement to pay $10 per hour with benefits and $11.50 without, and San Jose has a stronger living wage bill than New York.

And, arguably, a measure in Los Angeles bests the bill here as well, Wisnieski reports.


One Response to “‘Best’ Living Wage Law Is in San Jose”

  1. Zayne April 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    While the strongest bill possible for workers is desirable, it is important to correct some inaccuracies and place NYC’s legislation in context. San Jose’s 1998 law does not apply to tenants. Certainly the threshold is lower and the wage higher but it is not a comparable law to what is being voted on here today in size or content.

    As for Hudson Yards the bill only exempts 8% of the development. This exemption does not include Related Companies, which will be required across the entire development to pay the living wage.

    See below for my synopsis of Los Angeles’ Living Wage:

    • The City of Los Angeles’ Living Wage Law covers only the airport.
    • The only thing close to what NYC is drafting is its Community Redevelopment Agency policy of a commitment to living wages. Legally, Los Angeles has a policy – not an ordinance — because the agency cannot enact ordinances, and under CA law city ordinances cannot bind redevelopment agencies. Our law is a mandate for direct subsidy recipients, their contractors and sub-contractors.
    • Los Angeles’ policy does not require living wages for tenants of projects not built on city-owned land. The coverage of tenants is quite conditional.
    • LA has a policy to reach 70% of jobs with living wage requirement; we have a policy to attain 75% of the jobs with living wage requirement.
    • LA’s Waiver threshold extremely low: CA public agencies like the CRA/LA have the authority to waive any of their policies by a vote of the board. New York does not have a waiver.
    • LA’s threshold of financial assistance is much more stringent than NYC’s:
     LA–$1 million over five years
     NYC–$1 million over ten years

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