Labor in Mourning

Seven Months Later, Unions Raise the 9-11 Flag

Asked about the Global Crossing scandal, McLaughlin said he knew little about it and quickly changed the subject to labor's pending battle at the City Council to pass new living-wage legislation.

New York was the first city in the country to introduce the idea of living wages, a bill sponsored by former city councilmember Sal Albanese in 1996, backed by a citywide coalition of activist churches. The new bill, which so far has won 44 sponsors including Speaker Gifford Miller, who received key backing from organized labor in his bid to win the speakership, would go much further. The measure would boost minimum wages for an estimated 75,000 workers from the current state and federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour to $8.10, plus health benefits for all those employed by firms receiving city contracts, leases, or tax breaks.

The Bloomberg administration, backed by business leaders, has labeled the effort a "noble" but wrongheaded policy initiative that is too costly for a city struggling with the post-9-11 economy. City Comptroller William Thompson, another beneficiary of labor support, has endorsed it. "We're pretty hopeful on this one," said McLaughlin outside Trinity Church.

At Workers Memorial Day rally near ground zero: honoring those who did their jobs
photo: Andrew Lichtenstein
At Workers Memorial Day rally near ground zero: honoring those who did their jobs

At the rally at ground zero, AFL-CIO chief Sweeney called for a minute of silence at noon. Heads bowed, and after a pause, the bagpipes inflated again, launching into one more rendition of "Amazing Grace." Earlier in the day, rally organizers had walked up and down Broadway, darting in and out of shops and delis, passing out flyers asking everyone to join the minute of silence. But the effort brought little silence. A block away, Broadway's buzz was clearly audible at the memorial rally, a lunch crowd rushing through the streets, oblivious to the ceremony nearby.

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