NYC Mayor de Blasio's minimum wage hike order expected to cover 18,000 workers
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks after being sworn in on the steps of City Hall in Lower Manhattan Jan. 1, 2014 in New York (AFP)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order on Tuesday to raise the minimum hourly wage by more than a dollar to $13.13 for potentially thousands of people working in the city.

The increase, which expands an existing program to cover more New Yorkers, applies to workers employed by large businesses that are tenants of buildings developed with the help of more than $1 million in city subsidies.

The move comes as cities across the United States push ahead with so-called living wage initiatives to raise wages for workers at the bottom of the pay scale.

"The rules change today," de Blasio said from a playground in the Bronx, one of the city's five boroughs, with a large working-class population. "People are struggling, and we need to act now."

The order is expected to apply to an estimated 18,000 employees, including many restaurant and retail workers, over the next five years. Previously, it largely excluded retail employees and applied to some 1,200 workers.

The executive order also raises the minimum hourly rate set in the act to $13.13 an hour from $11.90 an hour for people who receive no health insurance and other benefits from their employers. For those who do receive benefits, the minimum wage rises to $11.50 an hour from $10.30.

De Blasio said he intends to increase the minimum hourly rate to $15.22 by 2019.

The rate increase will have some exclusions, including small businesses with gross income less than $3 million annually.

Critics of the measure say that the mandatory minimum will discourage businesses from leasing spaces in city-backed buildings.

“Some prospective commercial tenants will resist leasing space in projects that impose wage and compliance requirements that are more onerous than market practice," said Kathryn Wylde, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for New York City. The organization represents 200 large companies that employ around 775,000 New Yorkers.

De Blasio plans to lobby state lawmakers for the authority to increase the $8-an-hour state minimum wage on a citywide level.

De Blasio signed Tuesday's order with the support of U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, who has been working to promote President Barack Obama's proposal to boost the federal minimum wage to an hourly rate of $10.10 from $7.25.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Eric Beech)