Making the bosses pay

    Suppose City Council passed a law saying you can’t close your business unless you give the city two weeks notice?

    Well, they did.

    It was 1982, and the manufacturing base of big cities was collapsing and jobs were leaving Philadelphia at an alarming rate.

    A coalition of union and community activists convinced Council to enact the nation’s first plant closing law. Mayor Bill Green vetoed it and called Council “the worst legislative body in the free world.”

    Thus rebuked, Council promptly overrode Green’s veto. The idea behind the law was to force big employers to give workers, unions, and city officials some notice before shutting down, so some effort could be mounted to reverse the decision.

    The law was largely ignored, and had no discernible effect.

    I recall that now as Council votes on another bill sponsored by Councilman Wilson Goode aimed at making businesses treat people better.

    This one would require any business leasing space from a development that’s received city assistance to pay its workers at least 150 percent of minimum wage.

    Goode says it’s only fair that if you benefit from city assistance you pay your help a living wage, and he notes some other cities have such laws.

    Fair points, but I’d be uneasy about adding to the disincentives that already exist for locating businesses here.

    At a minimum, Council should take a closer look than it did at the only public hearing on the measure two weeks ago. It lasted a total of 25 minutes.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.