Mayoral Candidates, John Liu and Bill de Blasio, talk income inequality in NYC (37287)

Calling New York City a “millionaire’s club,” New York City Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio unveiled his plan to reduce economic inequality in the five boroughs in an hour-long speech at the New School in Greenwich Village.

“We can’t keep fostering growth at the very top of the economic ladder while New Yorkers further down the economic ladder have nowhere to climb,” said de Blasio. “These policies have put us on a path to becoming a ‘Tale of Two Cities.’ It’s unsustainable to see this kind of income inequality, and it will only change when we raise the floor and start lifting people up.”

De Blasio said that the 2012 living wage law that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn allowed to pass left out too many workers, “carving out exceptions for 70,000 manufacturing jobs, the Hudson Yards development, grocery stores participating in the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program and a range of other businesses.” De Blasio said that the living wage law should be pegged to increases in the cost of living and cover any development that receives over $1 million in subsidies from the city.

On the public advocate’s website, de Blasio’s plan states, “Only nonprofits, affordable housing and small businesses with less than $3 million in annual revenue should be exempted.”

One person leading the charge for Fast Food Forward–an organization that promotes living wages for fast-food employees–spoke highly of de Blasio’s speech and talked about how the money made in the industry should allow management to pay workers a fair wage.

“Fast food is one of the city’s fastest growing industries, it’s also the lowest paid,” said Fast Food Forward’s Campaign Director Jonathan Westin. “We need to raise the wages for these hard-working men and women. The $200 billion fast-food industry has shown it’s only willing to pay the legally required minimum wage, so that’s why the city must have the power to raise it.

“When workers have more money in their pockets, their families prosper, and so do our communities, local businesses and the economy.”

The fight for a living wage for fast-food workers has spread across the country to cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. Last Thursday, workers at Seattle’s fast food and retail chains walked off their jobs, calling for an increased hourly wage of $15 an hour and the right to organize free from management retaliation. The local franchises of various national chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell and Subway were left inoperable due to the walkout.