de-Bloomberging: deBlasio Drops Longtime Mayor’s Challenge to Prevailing Wages in NYC

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has dropped the city’s legal challenge to a law that would require companies receiving more than $1 million in economic development aid to pay the prevailing wage.  The legal challenge to the law began after the city council overrode Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of the law by a 44-4 vote in May of 2012.  

Following the override, Mayor Bloomberg sued the city council arguing that the legislation would increase city costs and was preempted by the state’s minimum wage law.  In August of 2013, state Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey D. Wright  threw out the law.  The city council and the involved unions then appealed that ruling.

In his original opinion, Wright suggested it was in the best interest of the city to follow through with the law, but he nonetheless tossed the law on the grounds that it preempted state labor law by raising the minimum wage for some employees. “This court believes that the Prevailing Wage Law could benefit the people of New York and does not see wisdom in the mayor’s zeal for the possibility of welcoming to New York City a business that would pay its building service employees less than the prevailing wage,” he wrote.

Now, Mayor de Blasio and city leaders are asking Wright to reconsider his ruling and allow similar legislation anew, according to Crain’s New York:

By withdrawing his predecessor’s lawsuit, Mr. de Blasio is asking the state court to begin the process of allowing the law to be implemented. The mayor, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, building workers union 32BJ President Héctor Figueroa and Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, filed a joint motion with the state Supreme Court.

“We believe projects that receive city subsidies and incentives should pay their workers fairly—and it is our duty to ensure these projects provide living-wage jobs to hard-working New Yorkers,” the four leaders said in a joint statement Friday. “No resident should work full-time and still struggle to afford living in this city—and today’s actions will help us provide real opportunity for thousands of hard-working New Yorkers.”

In a joint statement, de Blasio and council members note the importance of diminishing income equality and how implementation of a new law could positively affect the lives of New Yorkers. The dropping of the lawsuit is a clear example of how de Blasio differs from his predecessor.

‘‘We are moving one step closer to lifting a wage floor that has sunk below ground level,” the statement reads. “And we are moving toward expanding the number of jobs that pay a living wage, that will allow people not only to pay for their most basic needs, but also to spend a little time with their families, rather than work two or even three jobs without a day off.’’

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Chaz Bolte
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