New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order last week that will increase hourly wages for an estimated 18,000 workers. The living wage order raises the hourly wages from $10.30 to $11.50 for workers who receive benefits, and from $11.90 to $13.30 for those who do not receive benefits.
These changes to the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act not only increase wages, but also expand raises to parties who had previously been exempt from the law. The living wage law used to apply to only 1,200 jobs, when it was originally passed back in 2012. Now officials predict that nearly 18,000 workers will be covered over the next five years.
The law now includes employees who work for commercial tenants for projects that receive over $1 million in city subsidies, and also dismisses a previous exemption for development at Hudson Yards.
“Every tool counts. If we reach 18,000 families with this tool and get them to a decent standard of living, that’s a game-changer for those families,” de Blasio said, according to the New York Times.
While more low-income city residents will now benefit from Living Wage, critics argue that there are still too many exemptions. The law does not apply to businesses with less than $3 million in gross income, manufacturers or housing projects that contain more than 75% affordable units.
Increasing the living wage is a huge step for the mayor, but he ultimately has a bigger goal in mind. De Blasio is lobbying the state to allow him to make the city’s minimum wage equal to the living wage. City officials predict that matching the two would mean that all city workers earning hourly wages would receive over $15 an hour by the year 2019.
Minimizing the gap between the rich and the poor has been a long time goal for the mayor, and increasing wages and expanding coverage is certainly a step in the right direction. With nearly 1.1 million American households filing for bankruptcy every year, fair wages for low-income workers remains a hot topic of debate. Although congressional action for an increase in the federal minimum wage has been stalled, many cities across the country are pushing for change.