A "living wage" bill advocated by union leaders, community groups and elected officials just took one big step towards becoming a reality.
On Friday, the City Council released what amounts to a working draft of the legislation, which seeks to lift wages to account for the rising cost of housing, fuel and most other basic necessities.
The bill would require employers receiving city economic development subsidies pay workers at least $10 an hour—$2.75 over the state's minimum wage of $7.25.
The language of the bill released today includes entire categories of businesses that would be exempt from the proposed minimum $10-an-hour rate—including those in the nonprofit and manufacturing sector, as well as those with gross revenues under $5 million.
A vocal champion of the legislation, Councilwoman Letitia James, D-Fort Greene, expressed conditional support for the language contained in the latest version of the bill.
"At this point, I support these exemptions after hearing the concerns of my constituents," James said.
But James stressed that her vote in favor of the bill would depend on whether an exemption given to the Hudson Yards mega-project on Manhattan's West Side would be extended to all major construction efforts moving forward.
"It's important that these big companies treat their workers fairly," she said.
Already-approved projects such as Atlantic Yards redevelopment would not be subject to the law.
Another key job creator receiving city funds, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, would also not be required to pay workers the proposed minimum $10 an hour.
The exemptions come as a result of strong criticism by business groups, who claimed the bill would end up slowing or even reversing job growth in a city still battling the after-effects of a deep recession.
Despite the compromises, worker advocates hailed the legislation.
"Poverty is on the rise in many communities in our city, and the living wage bill is a significant response to the growing plight of the working poor," said James Parrott, chief economist and deputy director of the Fiscal Policy Institute.
Facing stiff opposition by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, proponents are currently marshaling the votes needed not only to pass the bill, but also to override an expected veto.
The City Council will hold a vote on the bill on April 30.