February 9, 2014

Bronx Elected Officials Unite to Introduce New City Council Bill that will Promote Labor Harmony at Future Living Wage Retail Developments

Press release from the Office of the Bronx Borough President - 2/8/14


Stuart Appelbaum, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Annabel Palma and Ritchie Torres Jointly Announce New Living Wage Bill Today

Bronx, NY—The historic campaign for living wage jobs that grew out of the Bronx is re-emerging with a coalition of Bronx elected officials and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW announcing today the framework of a new City Council bill.

RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Councilwoman Annabel Palma and Councilman Ritchie Torres are jointly announcing legislation that would include a labor harmony requirement for all future living wage retail developments subsidized with $1 million or more in city taxpayer money.

Councilwoman Annabel Palma will be the lead sponsor of the new bill, with Councilman Ritchie Torres serving as co-sponsor. The legislation will be introduced with the full support of RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Labor harmony promotes respectful relationships between workers and employers, and protects taxpayers by removing conflict from development projects and the tenant businesses that anchor them. 

Under the framework of the new bill, labor harmony would apply to all retail tenants of development projects subsidized at $1 million or more.

Labor harmony agreements for economic development are well-established in New York and around the country. They benefit taxpayers, workers and businesses. Employers maintain neutrality when it comes to workers’ efforts to join unions. And in return, unions agree not to engage in picketing and other disruptions in the operation and flow of commerce at tenant businesses in development projects.

“The campaign for living wage jobs began in the Bronx at the Kingsbridge Armory, and I’m thrilled that several prominent Bronx leaders want to finish what was started there. The new bill will ensure that future taxpayer-subsidized living wage retail developments promote labor harmony. Greater unionization in retail, one of the fastest growing low-wage sectors of our economy, will help lift more New Yorkers out of poverty. A union contract is still the greatest anti-poverty program in our country’s history. We look forward to working with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio in this effort,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) UFCW, which led the campaign that passed the existing living wage legislation covering economic development in the City Council in 2012.

“Under my administration, the Bronx has come a long way toward improving the quality of life of the hard working people of my borough.  Unfortunately, we still have far too many people struggling to make ends meet in every corner of this great city.  By strengthening our current living wage with a labor harmony requirement, we can do more to provide good jobs to the people of this city. As the Chief Executive Officer of the Bronx, I am proud to be working with the RWDSU and my colleagues in the City Council to introduce this powerful and necessary bill.  It’s a top priority for everyone involved in this coalition, and I look forward to the day that this bill is signed into law,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a leader of the recent living wage campaign that grew out of the Bronx.

“When it comes to economic justice and workers’ rights, the Bronx is united.  We led the fight to pass the Living Wage Law and establish an essential linkage between public dollars, private development, and good-paying jobs. Now, through the use of labor harmony agreements, we intend to strengthen this link and more fully realize what we envisioned four years ago when we began this fight. There is a growing economic crisis in our communities, and this new living wage legislation will help us tackle it. I am committed to working with this coalition and my colleagues in government to get this done,” said Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma, who was a lead sponsor of the living wage legislation passed in 2012 and will now be the lead sponsor of this new living wage legislation.

“I grew up very poor in public housing in the Bronx, so the fight for living wage jobs has always been personal for me, my family, and my community. My brother has worked in many low-wage retail jobs. It's fitting that the fight for living wage jobs in our city is being driven by the Bronx, the borough with the lowest average wage for retail workers and where 1 in 3 residents lives in poverty. I am proud to stand with such a strong and unified coalition to support the very fundamental right of workers to earn a paycheck that can sustain a family. We are going to do everything in our power to ensure that this legislation is passed as soon as possible,” said Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Deputy Leader in the City Council, who will co-sponsor the new living wage legislation with Councilwoman Annabel Palma.

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