- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order on Tuesday that expanded New York City’s living wage law, increasing the hourly rate to $13.13 from $11.90 for workers who do not receive benefits.

The significant expansion, which will cover thousands of previously exempt New Yorkers, fulfilled a campaign promise made by de Blasio, who became the city’s first Democratic mayor in a generation when he took office in January. It strengthened a law that was approved by the City Council in 2012.

The new legislation will cover an estimated 18,000 workers over the next five years, about 4,000 of them who are in the retail or fast-foot business. The previous law covered about 1,200 total.

“We are raising the floor for working families struggling to get by,” said de Blasio at a Bronx news conference attended by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and several local elected officials.

The executive order, which bypasses the City Council, now directs that commercial tenants at projects that receive more than $1 million in city subsidies will be covered by the living wage regulations.

The existing living wage law was criticized from the left - including by de Blasio when he was Public Advocate - for its narrow reach, as it only impacted companies that directly receive city subsidies, but not those that are simply tenants in subsidized developments. It also explicitly excluded part of the massive Hudson Yards development on Manhattan’s West Side, a provision that the executive order now removes.

Critics claimed that the executive order puts an unfair burden on some business leaders, and some said it should have been debated in the city council so business leaders could comment in open hearings.

De Blasio placed the order amid a series of actions - including increased paid sick leave and the establishment of free universal pre-kindergarten - meant to help the economically disadvantaged. He also said he aims to make a renewed fight to raise the state’s minimum wage next year.

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