Credit: Bill Moore

The cheers of thousands of minimum wage workers could be heard as Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order enacting a sweeping expansion of New York City’s Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act.

Effective immediately, commercial tenants at projects that receive more than $1 million in city subsidies will be covered by living wage provisions, and the living wage itself will be raised from $11.90 to $13.13 per hour, likely reaching $15.22 per hour by 2019.

“We are raising the floor for working families struggling to get by,” de Blasio said. “With this order, thousands of breadwinners working at projects that will be supported by taxpayers will earn higher wages and be more likely to receive the kind of benefits critical to supporting a family.

“And this is just one of many steps we’re taking on this front. From today’s executive order to the expansion of paid sick leave to our overhaul of workforce development, we are working to lift up working people and confront inequality.”

For workers earning the state’s minimum wage of $8 per hour, the living wage would increase their gross income from $16,640 to $27,310 per year. The living-wage executive order eliminates an exemption for future development at Hudson Yards, bringing thousands of additional jobs under living wage provisions in the years ahead.

The living wage will be set at $13.13 without benefits or $11.50 per hour with benefits, and it will be adjusted each year to match changes in the Consumer Price Index. It previously stood at $10.30 with benefits and $11.90 without benefits.

With Tuesday’s signing of the living wage executive order de Blasio has New York City in league with major cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have raised wages in an attempt to reduce the number of families that rely on public assistance. The raise will affect an estimated 18,000 workers, including retail and fast-food workers, many of whom now make the New York state minimum wage of $8 an hour.

“We cannot continue to allow rampant and growing income inequality,” said de Blasio. “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.”

“Nearly two years ago, 200 fast-food workers in New York City walked off our jobs, calling for $15 and union rights,” said Shantel Walker, a Papa John’s worker who makes $8.50 an hour and is a member of Fast Food Forward in New York City. “Our demand may have sounded crazy at the time, but more and more, $15 is becoming a reality for workers across the country. As we’ve gone on strike again and again and a movement that started here in New York has spread to 150 cities, $15 suddenly doesn’t seem so impossible.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, supports a plan to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from the current $8 and to allow New York City and other municipalities to set the minimum wage 30 percent higher.

“While he works with Governor Cuomo to raise wages for all New Yorkers, Mayor de Blasio’s move today to put workers at city-subsidized projects on a path to $15 is a sign that we are winning,” Walker continued. “It’s a step in the right direction and helps push us forward in our fight for $15 for workers across the entire country.”

“Today’s executive order will guarantee living wages to previously exempt workers, such as employees of commercial tenants,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Additionally, it will raise the hourly wage for workers who are not eligible to receive employee benefits. These actions go far to move us towards a more economically equitable society, and I look forward to working with the administration to achieve a living wage throughout New York City,”

Bill Lipton, New York director for the Working Families Party, said the increase is a “landmark victory.” He commended the work of the organizers who fought more than a decade to get more money for workers.

“There’s much left to do when it comes to reversing inequality and improving the lives of working families,” Lipton said. “The next step is winning a Democratic-WFP majority in the state Senate this November. But let’s take a moment today to celebrate. This victory has been a long time coming for New York’s working families.”

The city currently spends almost $700 million a year on property tax exemptions going to developers, not to mention many other forms of assistance.

According to David R. Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society, with de Blasio’s expansion of paid sick days, the minimum wage increase policies move New York City forward.

“By his action today, Mayor de Blasio has significantly strengthened the living wage law and set a new benchmark of $13.13 as the minimum adequate wage in our city,” he said. “When the city invests in large economic developments, businesses, workers and local communities all benefit.”

32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa said the mayor’s decision to use the power of the city’s purse to raise wages for hard-working New Yorkers is an incredibly important step toward ending New York’s “tale of two cities.”

“Expanding the living wage to more workers means that fewer families and children will struggle in poverty, and that’s good for all New Yorkers,” he said.

The living wage will be enforced by the Department of Consumer Affairs.