MOTT HAVEN — Shantel Walker says the checks from her minimum wage job at a Papa John's Pizza in Bushwick barely last longer than a few days.
"I get paid Saturday. By Tuesday or Wednesday, I'm broke," said Walker, 32, who earns $8.50 per hour, 50 cents above New York's $8 minimum wage, and pays more than $500 per month in rent. "I want to go back to school, but I can't even afford to."
Under a new executive order signed Tuesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, more than 18,000 New Yorkers like Walker will be in for a raise over the next five years.
The order, which takes effect immediately, expands the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act by requiring commercial tenants at projects that receive more than $1 million in city subsidies to pay workers who do not receive health benefits a minimum of $13.13 per hour, up 10 percent from $11.90.
The minimum wage for workers with health benefits is $11.50 which the city defined as the living wage. By 2019, the minimum pay for workers without health benefits will increase to $15.22.
"A minimum wage job means you are on the verge of poverty even if you are working a full work week. That's unacceptable," de Blasio said at St. Mary's Park in the Bronx where he signed the executive order.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez was on hand to praise the city for taking matters into its own hands.
In Mott Haven, where St. Mary's Park is located, de Blasio said the annual median income was only $20,000 per year. A full time minimum wage worker makes $270 above the poverty level and the current buying power of New York's $8 minimum wage is less than what it was in 1964.
"People are struggling. They're working harder and harder and yet, they're struggling to get by," said de Blasio.
Workers who made just more than $16,000 per year working full-time under the current minimum wage would make more than $27,000 under the new $13.13 per hour wage.
The mayor said the change is part of a wider effort to raise the minimum wage for everyone across the city. If Democrats take control of the state Senate in November, the mayor said he would push for legislation that raises the state minimum wage to $10.10 per hour indexed to inflation. He also wants the legislation to give some municipalities the ability to set their own minimum wage beyond the state standard.
"We have to move united from here, to Albany, N.Y., to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10. We need to do that starting this January," de Blasio said.
It is believed that de Blasio wants a $13 minimum wage for the city.
But not everyone was in favor of his executive order.
Kathyrn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, said "some prospective commercial tenants will resist leasing space in projects that impose wage and compliance requirements that are more onerous than market practice."
De Blasio refuted that notion saying that higher wages can only improve the city and small businesses.
Asked why he waited until 10 months into his term to enact the executive order if it was so urgent, de Blasio said the intention was to act quicker but, "It took time to get it right."
The Department of Consumer Affairs will enforce the executive order.
Walker said she'd like to see the minimum wage go even higher for workers like herself. A minimum wage of $15 per hour and a union for fast food workers are just two of her goals.
"Right now, people are not able to feed their families," she said.