‘Living wage’ reminds Bloomberg of Soviet communism; he says he’ll stop it in court if he has to

Mayor Bloomberg in a hard hat. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Asked about the city's "living wage" legislation during his regular Friday morning radio appearance on WOR, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR."

On Wednesday night, City Council speaker Christine Quinn announced that negotiations were finally complete on a living wage bill that would require some recipients of large economic development subsidies to pay their employees at least $10 an hour.

Quinn calls it "the most impactful living-wage law in the United States," but experts say it will actually impact about 500 workers a year.

Even so, today, Bloomberg compared the legislation to communism and said he would veto the bill and if the veto is overridden, his administration will file a lawsuit.

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"It's interesting if you think about it," said the mayor. "The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR and that didn't work out so well."

"It would be great if all jobs in the city paid a lot of money and had great benefits for the workers. Not good for the employers. But if you force that you will just drive businesses out of the city."

By way of example, Bloomberg pointed to Fresh Direct, which, after threatening to relocate to New Jersey, won $127.8 million in New York City and state tax and cash subsidies to remain here.

"And we were lucky that Fresh Direct decided to stay here," said the mayor. "But, I don't know if it's true, but there's certainly stories that everybody agreed that the city council said, 'We won't pass the bill until you move in and we'll only make it prospective.' But if it was gonna to keep Fresh Direct out, it's gonna keep other people out. You just cannot force employers to pay a rate that isn't sustainable in their business. And it's not the government's business to do this."

Bloomberg went on to call a separate bill that would require companies of a certain size to give their employees paid sick leave (which isn't going anywhere because Quinn doesn't support it) "a godawful law," and then returned to the topic at hand.

The final living-wage bill has carve-outs for small businesses, nonprofits, and a portion of the Hudson Yards. But Bloomberg is not impressed.

"No matter how much you try to carve out certain industries and certain locations and certain size businesses, you're gonna hurt somebody ... I will veto any bill."

And if the veto is overridden, the mayor said, "we certainly will go to court and sue. Whether we win or not, you never know."