Billionaire Mayor Bloomberg Sues to Keep New Yorkers' Wages Low

The world's 20th richest man declared recently that a living wage bill passed (over his veto) by New York's city council was the next best thing to Communist central planning. Michael Bloomberg, who's also made news recently trying to ban large sodas, today took the next step in proving how serious he is about keeping wages low--I mean, keeping New York City a "business-friendly" climate. 

Bloomberg is suing to prevent not just the living wage bill, but a companion "prevailing wage" bill that the City Council also passed over his veto, from going into effect. The living wage bill requires employers that get more than $1 million in taxpayer subsidies to pay their workers at least $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 an hour without them, and the prevailing wage bill would up wages to $20 an hour for certain building services workers in buildings that receive subsidies of over $1 million or where the city leases a significant amount of property. 

The Wall Street Journal reports: 


In the complaint filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, Mr. Bloomberg argued that the laws are overridden by state and federal laws. Because the state has its own minimum-wage law, for example, the city doesn't have the authority to require employers to pay higher wages, the lawsuit said. Mr. Bloomberg also argued that the laws unlawfully limit mayoral powers.

Council spokeswoman Zoe Tobin said the council is confident that it acted within its authority under state law and the City Charter. "These laws were passed over the mayor's veto with overwhelming support in the council and it is disappointing that the mayor has chosen to challenge these laws rather than enforce them," she said.

In April, Mr. Bloomberg delivered an unusually sharp rebuke to the council as he vetoed one of the bills, lecturing its backers on "the way the free market works."

Bloomberg would know how the free market works, after all--it apparently works by handing out millions of dollars of taxpayer money to big businesses so that they'll stick around and continue to pay low wages. FreshDirect, as we reported, got nearly $129 million in city money to stay in town, despite paying its drivers and warehouse workers around $8 or $8.50 an hour. (FreshDirect managed to get exempted from the living wage law anyway, as Council speaker Christine Quinn maneuvered to make it more palatable to business.) 

Of course, Bloomberg is dead wrong on the merits--the "economic growth" that he claims to be protecting would in fact be boosted if New Yorkers could actually, you know, afford to spend some money. $8 an hour won't let them do that--nor, truly, will $10 an hour. A recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition recently noted that it would require 88 hours of work a week to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in New York working at minimum wage--the same minimum wage that Bloomberg thinks these workers, at massively tax-subsidized companies, should get. 

AlterNet / By Sarah Jaffe

Posted at July 30, 2012, 8:30am