Not all Republicans are alike.
Raising an issue rarely championed by his party, GOP mayoral candidate Joel Schiavone ’58 announced Wednesday his support for an expanded living wage ordinance in New Haven.
Speaking to a small group in front of Woodbridge Hall, Schiavone called for a law that goes beyond New Haven’s current requirement that subcontractors hired by the city be paid a living wage.
The real estate developer said his proposed ordinance would be based on those passed by several cities across the country, including Santa Monica, Ca. It would extend the living wage mandate to large private companies while exempting small businesses.
He said the exact wage requirement would be calculated by a consultant but estimated it would be approximately $12 per hour.
“I am the first Republican to support this in the history of the world,” Schiavone said.
Citing the student outcry for a living wage at Harvard last spring, Schiavone said he thought the wage issue would improve his standing among Yale students, usually a pro-Democratic and pro-DeStefano group.
Democratic Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is on vacation, but his campaign manager, Julio Gonzalez ’99, questioned the challenger’s motives.
“At the end of the day, he is a financially conservative Republican; this is a policy gimmick,” Gonzalez said. “It’s part of a cynical media strategy.”
Schiavone and DeStefano will square off in the Nov. 6 general election.
Gonzalez said that while DeStefano is committed to living wage principles, the proposed ordinance could not be implemented because Connecticut law does not currently allow municipalities to mandate wage levels on their own.
Ted LeVasseur, Schiavone’s campaign manager, said he was not sure whether that was true, but added that it was not an important question.
“That’s the difference between DeStefano and Joel,” LeVasseur said. “If it was necessary we would lobby hard for the law.”
LeVasseur said he thought DeStefano was worried about alienating the Yale administration.
Since the proposed law would focus on large corporations, Schiavone said he expected it to have the most effect on employees of Yale and Yale-New Haven Hospital.
While Yale Provost Alison Richard would not comment on the proposal, Yale administrators have said that nearly all union employees receive living wages. Schiavone agreed, but said workers hired by Yale subcontractors are still poorly paid.
Schiavone said that Bruce Alexander, director of Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs, has indicated his support for a living wage. Alexander could not be reached Wednesday.
Gonzalez questioned Schiavone’s record as an employer, citing a New Haven Advocate article in which the Schiavone Management Company broke a union at the University Towers.
Schiavone said that he was not involved with the company at the time and issued an emphatic denial.
“[Gonzalez] is such a lunatic; the guy doesn’t have a clue how to check his facts,” Schiavone said. “First of all, I was not involved; second of all, the union withdrew because they couldn’t stand the employees.”
He did say he “threw out” the union at the Palace Performing Arts Center in 1987 after a protracted strike, but he denied any inconsistency between that stand and his current proposal.