As the New York City public advocate, I feel a sense of urgency about the challenges facing our communities. Every day, I try to help New Yorkers take on these challenges, particularly the ones affecting our most vulnerable. But over the last three years, I have seen our city make major progress. And Mayor Bill de Blasio deserves credit.
From implementing Universal Pre-Kindergarten to significantly reducing stop-and-frisk to empowering workers, Mayor de Blasio has moved our city forward in real, meaningful ways. At the core of his work, Mayor de Blasio has focused on improving conditions for the working men and women who make our city run.
For these individuals, ten dollars an hour is not a livable wage. That's why the mayor raised the minimum wage for tens of thousands of city workers and contractors. He also knows that our workers need employment protections and policies that allow them to both work and be caretakers. So he expanded the Paid Sick Leave law to ensure that 500,000 additional workers were covered. City workers no longer have to make the impossible decision between caring for a loved one and putting food on the table.
At the end of the day, no matter how much we raise the minimum wage or offer these protections, our families will still be held back if women continue to earn less than their male counterparts. We know that women, especially women of color, earn significantly less despite performing the same work. In an effort to close this pervasive wage gap, Mayor de Blasio signed into law a bill that I introduced that bans employers from asking any job applicant for their previous salary information. The use of salary history to determine compensation perpetuates a dangerous cycle of underpayment that follows women from job to job and even cheats them out of their retirement benefits. By taking the step to ban this practice, Mayor de Blasio is helping to end the cycle of pay inequity and level the playing field for all workers.
When Mayor de Blasio took office in 2014, New York City had only 20,000 free, full day, pre-k seats. Today, we have universal Pre-k. Every four-year-old child in New York City has access to this early childhood education that is so critical to their long-term success, and our parents have much-needed care.
With so many New Yorkers being priced out of their own neighborhoods, the mayor has also made preserving and expanding affordable housing a top priority. I've been proud to work with Mayor de Blasio to take on bad landlords through my “Worst Landlords” watchlist and new enforcement measures that lead to safer apartment buildings. During his first term, New York City saw a first ever rent-freeze for rent stabilized apartments, two years in a row.
The mayor has also fulfilled his promise to end stop-and-frisk abuses and start a new era of community policing that builds bridges between our police officers and the communities they serve. This new approach includes the implementation of body-worn cameras for NYPD officers – a major accountability and transparency measure that I was proud to champion.
All of this doesn’t mean that I always agree with the mayor (I’ve got lawsuits against his administration to prove it!). In fact, any great leader understands that dissent isn’t a threat; it’s an opportunity to benefit from a different perspective.
But if we look ahead to the next four years, it is clear that Mayor de Blasio will keep working to expand opportunities for working people, protect our city from the Trump Administration’s assaults, and make New York more equitable and fair for all. I'm proud to endorse Mayor de Blasio and look forward to working with him for years to come.
Letitia James is the public advocate for New York City.
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