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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
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Bloomberg Sues to Stop NYC Living Wage Laws

MANHATTAN (CN) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sued the City Council on Friday for passing legislation aimed at mandating that construction and building service workers be able to collect living and prevailing wages at their jobs, overriding mayoral vetoes of similar bills in the process.

Living wages tailors minimum earnings to the costs of residency in a given city, rather than a randomly assigned number. Prevailing wages refers more narrowly to what other workers make in particular trades, such as construction, security, cleaning and transportation.

New York City Council passed laws this spring 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 them $10 per hour and mandate $11.50 per hour wages for contractors that do not.

City Council voted overwhelmingly for this version of the bill again in June to overcome Bloomberg's vetoes.

But Bloomberg's new lawsuit in New York Supreme Court indicates that he has not given up, yet.

The corporate-friendly mayor claims that living wages for workers will drive businesses out of New York.

At the time of his veto, Bloomberg asserted, "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."

Instead of creating of shared prosperity, 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.

These numbers, combined with the city's crackdown on political protest, has led the Occupy Wall Street movement to dub him "Mayor 1%."

Meanwhile, Bloomberg's lawsuit attacks minimum wage hikes by alleging violations of state and federal law.

"These Local Laws are invalid for two reasons: first, they are preempted by state and federal laws; and second, they unlawfully curtail executive powers vested in the Mayor by the New York City Charter ('Charter') and transfer mayoral powers to the Comptroller," the lawsuit states. "Under the Charter and the Municipal Home Rule Law ('MHRL'), any changes in the allocation of powers among the branches and officials of city government are invalid unless approved by the voters in a referendum, and these Local Laws were not so approved."

The 42-page complaint claims 10 violations of state, federal and municipal authority, seeking a permanent injunction blocking the laws from taking effect.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union ridiculed the mayor's persistence in fighting raised wages in light of his well-publicized campaigned to reduce the size of soft drinks in New York City.

"Mayor Bloomberg in 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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