Bloomberg Doubles Down Against Living Wages

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Mayor Michael Bloomberg sued the City Council to try to stop a “Living Wage Law,” that construction and building service workers be paid prevailing wages.
     The City Council “purportedly adopted” the Living Wage Law, Local Law 37 of 2012, over the mayor’s veto, Bloomberg says in his federal complaint.
     Living wage laws tailor minimum wages to the costs of residency in a given city. Prevailing wages refer more narrowly to what other workers make in particular trades, such as construction, security, cleaning and transportation.
     The City Council this spring approved laws working toward both goals.
     In their final, watered-down forms, the bills had the effect of forcing city contractors that insure their workers to pay $10 per hour, and $11.50 per hour for contractors that do not insure them.
     The City Council voted overwhelmingly for the bill again in June, over Bloomberg’s veto.
     This is Bloomberg’s second attempt to invalidate the City Council’s votes. He sued in state court in July .
     Bloomberg that living wages for workers will drive businesses out of New York.
     At the time of his veto, Bloomberg said: “The creation of well-paying, sustainable jobs has never been more critical to New York City residents and to the future of the City’s economic health, which is why we have waged an aggressive ten-year campaign of job creation and workforce skill development that is designed to help expand economic opportunity for all New Yorkers.”
     Bloomberg has presided over a widening of the income gap at nearly twice the national average, city Comptroller John Liu found in a study released in May.
     The cover of Liu’s study shows an activist holding a sign, “We Are 99%,” an Occupy Wall Street slogan.
     Bloomberg, a billionaire, has been called “Mayor 1%” for his laissez-faire approach to Wall Street and his crackdown on public protest.
     The Living Wage Law would transfer enforcement powers from Bloomberg to Liu, his populist critic, according to the complaint.
     “The Living Wage Law, enacted without a referendum, also unlawfully curtails the mayor’s authority by transferring certain mayoral implementation and enforcement powers to the comptroller,” the complaint states. “The Charter neither contemplates nor articulates any role for the Comptroller as an administrator or enforcer of these laws.”
     The law empowers the comptroller to receive complaints and conduct investigations, Bloomberg says in his lengthy complaint.
     Liu’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
     Bloomberg alleges nine violations of state, municipal and federal laws, including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA.
     Bloomberg claims that Congress passed ERISA to standardize laws on benefits, and that the Living Wage law imposes jurisdictional “peculiarities” on employers.
     In July, The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union ridiculed the mayor’s persistence in fighting higher wages, in light of his campaign to reduce the size of soft drinks in New York City.
     “Mayor Bloomberg is in super-sized denial of the reality of our city’s working poor,” RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement. “Mayor Bloomberg needs to worry about the size of people’s paychecks, not the size of their sodas.”

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