Labor advocacy groups welcomed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signing on Tuesday of an executive order that will raise wages for thousands of New Yorkers, saying it will help people survive in the notoriously expensive city.
De Blasio said the order expands a 2012 “living wage” law that previously applied to only 1,200 New York jobs. The order extends coverage to 18,000 workers over the next five years, and increases the amount they must be paid under the law — to as high as $13.13 an hour for some workers.
The executive order will cover employees of commercial tenants in development projects that take in more than $1 million in city subsidies, The New York Times said Tuesday.
“I think it’s a good step in the right direction for helping reduce income inequality,” said Cara Noel, spokeswoman for NYC Central Labor Council, adding that it will likely put some people on the path to becoming self-sufficient.
The term living wage refers to the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet needs that are considered basic. De Blasio’s order comes amid a national movement of low-wage workers advocating for higher pay.
"We're doing something urgent that takes effect today," de Blasio said Tuesday at a news conference, adding that he would also move to raise the state’s overall minimum wage.
Calling the order "one part of a bigger strategy," he said, “We need to move united from here to Albany to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10.”
Under the executive order the living wage will be raised from $10.30 to $11.50 for workers in New York City who already receive benefits including health insurance. For those without benefits, the amount will increase from $11.90 to $13.13, according to The New York Times.
The average hourly pay for private-sector employees in New York state was $27.76 in August 2014. The city and national averages were $32.18 and $24.53, respectively.
Seattle recently approved a $15 minimum wage in June, and residents of San Francisco will vote on a $15 minimum in November. Last year, fast food workers began a push for a $15 wage amid nationwide protests and strikes.
During de Blasio’s campaign for mayor last year, he condemned economic inequality in America’s most populous city.
“We cannot continue to allow rampant and growing income inequality,” de Blasio told The New York Times. “Every tool counts. If we reach 18,000 families with this tool [the expanded living wage] and get them to a decent standard of living that’s a game-changer for those families.”
The 18,000 workers who will now be covered under the expanded law represent 70 percent of all jobs at businesses that receive financial help from the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the paper added.
“This new living wage executive order will improve the lives of thousands of low-wage workers, especially in the retail sector," Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union, said in a news release. "It will ensure that retail tenants and subtenants in development projects help reduce poverty instead of perpetuating it.”
Al Jazeera and wire services. Additional reporting by Deepashri Varadharajan