Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order Tuesday that effectively raises the hourly wage for thousands of workers in New York City. The city says its expansion of the Living Wage provisions will boost yearly earnings for the lowest-paid workers from $16,640 to $27,310.
From New York, NPR's Joel Rose reports:
"The executive order increases the hourly rate from under $12 an hour to just over $13 an hour for thousands of fast-food and retail workers. Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned last year on a pledge to fight income inequality. And he says it's time for the city to do more.
"The rules change today,' he said, 'because people are struggling. They need help now.'
"New York City already passed a so-called living wage law in 2012, over the objections of business leaders. But it only applied to roughly 1,200 jobs. City officials say the new order will remove some exemptions from that law, expanding it to cover some 18,000 workers.
Today's move means companies that receive more than $1 million in city subsidies must pay their employees a minimum of either $11.50 or $13.13 an hour, depending on whether or not the workers get benefits.
Several U.S. cities and states have been moving toward minimum wage hikes in recent years. Back in June, Seattle's city council voted to raise its minimum wage to $15. That rate, which would be the highest in the nation, will be phased in gradually.
The effects of raising the minimum wage are always hotly debated. As we reported in July, Labor Department data found that "the 13 states that raised their minimum wages on Jan. 1 have added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not."
As NPR's Planet Money reported earlier this year, the debate over working conditions and the minimum wage law has deep roots in New York, where the 1895 Bakeshop Act, which limited working hours for bakeries, sparked a court battle.