For Canal Side Community Alliance members, the idea that subsidized businesses should pay living wages continues to be an imperative. Not only a moral imperative in that a job should lift an individual out of poverty, not keep them in it, but one that makes sense.Living wages are not the end all be all. Living wage policies are but one piece of a broader vision for a more equitable society, and accountable and transparent economic development.
The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, a bill before the NYC City Council would ensure that any developer or retailer who receives $1 million or more in subsidies to promote economic development pay a living wage for any jobs that are created. This bill, which has been altered greatly at the behest of Mayor Bloomberg and City Council President, Christine Quinn, has sparked a lively debate regarding the value and the impact of living wages on individuals, communities, and the market. At the heart of the debate is 1 fundamental issue ; the system of dolling out subsidies is broken-both sides of the debate seem to agree on this.
If corporations and developers want public money, then they MUST abide by certain ground rules. Otherwise, we are destined to continue the cycle that the Occupy movement has highlighted-the rich will continue to get richer, while the poor not only get poorer, but SUBSIDIZE the wealthy. This principle applies to Canal Side and its development. Bass Pro was a prime example of the poor subsidizing the rich. Johnny Morris and Bass Pro were making a profit even during the recession, and still demanded $35 Million in unrestricted funding and still more in parking and other infrastructure. It was not the elected officials that pulled the plug on this, it was the pressure from community activists that forced Bass Pro to leave the bait and find another city to exploit.
Ultimately, living wage policies should be accepted as what they are-a powerful response to a broken subsidy system and paralysis of policy makers. Such policies are not meant to repair the systems, but rather lessen the devastating impacts on the communities that corporate greed, neglect, and exploitation have.
Here are a few articles of interest regarding the debate around living wages and the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act.