Martin Luther King III has entered a local fight for living wages at certain New York City businesses on the anniversary of his father's death, in a push which proponents say can gain steam in other cities across the country.
The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act - which was introduced to the New York City Council last year and has majority support in the 51 member body - has not received the backing of Council Speaker Christine Quinn amid concerns that the bill may adversely impact businesses.
Quinn has promised a hearing on the bill sometime in April, although that does not guarantee a vote. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has previously said the bill is a nice idea but is poorly thought out and won't work. The mayor has veto power over the bill, which the council can only override with two-thirds voting in favor.
A majority of City Council members back the legislation. Now I urge the rest to embrace it, King said in a released statement.
Twenty-nine council members back the bill, according to Living Wage NYC, a group advocating for the measure.
The bill - which would affect businesses which have received more than $100,000 in subsidies - would make them pay up to $11.50 per hour. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Businesses would also have the option of paying $10 per hour in addition to health benefits. The smallest businesses would be exempted.
King III said that on the date of his father's assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting for the creation of living wage jobs.
In his view, it was both a moral necessity and a civil right that every working American should earn enough to live a decent life and not worry about basic survival, King III said.
King III said New York City offers a national roadmap for continuing my father's unfinished work of economic justice.
He said advocates, which include religious leaders, labor leaders, and local community members are gathering in New York's Brooklyn and Bronx boroughs at churches Monday evening for meetings on how to gain the support needed to pass the bill.
King III is the chief executive of The King Center in Atlanta. He is also a board member on the liberal policy group, the Drum Major Institute.