Today, the Partnership for New York City submitted the following testimony to New York City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor.
Testimony as prepared for Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City
Thank you, Chair Miller and members of the committee, for the opportunity to testify today. The Partnership for New York City represents private sector employers of more than 1.5 million New Yorkers. For the past forty years, we have worked with government, labor and the nonprofit sector to maintain the city’s position as the preeminent global center of commerce, innovation and economic opportunity.
Today, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our continued status as a leading global city is at risk. New York has been hit harder than any other city, enduring 28% of the deaths in the United States.
We are facing the loss of half a million jobs and the likely bankruptcy of tens of thousands of businesses—losses that will be accelerated, not remedied, by the proposed legislation. We believe that New York can recover, but only if workers and employers, business and labor, tenants and property owners unite around a single agenda that works for all of us. We must be allies in this fight, not enemies.
Some 726,695 unemployment claims were filed in the city between March 15 and April 25. The Council bills would undoubtedly add to these numbers, since businesses in essential industries, while allowed to operate, are suffering from declines in revenues and extra costs associated with operating under pandemic conditions. For example, as of the week ending April 25, airlines had experienced a 96% drop in passengers, hotel occupancy was down more than 50% and those restaurants that have managed to stay open are seeing at least a 30% decrease in sales.
Employers in essential industries are trying to retain and, in some cases, hire as many employees as possible, maintain health benefits for those on furlough and accelerate payments to vendors who are also struggling to stay in business. Partnership members report paying critical employees up to 25% more per week, weekly bonuses, increased rates for overtime as well as offering other benefits such as transportation, hotel rooms and food for meal breaks. One large essential employer estimated that Int. 1918 alone would cost them more than $2 million per week—money they don’t have.
The problems of high housing costs and income disparities that existed before the pandemic will become far more serious as a result of skyrocketing unemployment. The city will not have the resources to solve them with public subsidies; arbitrary mandates on employers and property owners will simply put them out of business. Instead of moving this legislation forward, even with amendments, we request instead that the Council take this opportunity to work with employers, labor and civic leaders and community advocates to come up with solutions that are appropriate to our shared objective of saving our city from catastrophic losses.