Municipal Government

Cuomo’s Crumbs Leave Low-Wage Workers Hungry

January 22, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco

Activists with 15 Now NYC march in Brooklyn.

Activists with 15 Now NYC march in Brooklyn.

New York, NY –  There’s a yawning chasm between the worker-based drive for a $15 an hour minimum wage and the tiny bump in pay that Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing for the Empire State – and the lukewarm response the chief executive is getting from those supposedly directly helped by the effort, is clearly indicative of that fact. 

When asked, protestors at the last few fast food rallies to take place in New York City, held fast to their belief that 2015 would be the year that struggling low-workers finally achieve a $15 an hour minimum wage. 

But just as it’s difficult for many to understand how the Affordable Health Care Act gets the U.S. any closer to single payer healthcare, it’s equally hard to see how Cuomo’s new proposal to raise the state minimum wage to $10.50 with a buck more for New York City – without indexing – gets struggling workers closer to a $15 an hour minimum within a timeframe that really counts. 

New York City-based SEIU 32BJ said that the governor’s proposal “moves New York in the right direction.” and will help “more than one million workers who work hard, yet struggle to make ends meet.”

At the same time, the labor group, which continues to be part of the driving force powering fast food workers across the country, tempered its reaction calling on the New York State Legislature to build on the governor’s proposal “so the minimum wage can be a livable wage for working families.”

Seattle and San Francisco have already passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour – albeit ever so slowly over the course of the next two or three years. Other municipalities have also paved the way for a $15 an hour hike over a longer period. 

According to Daniel Kroop, spokesperson for 15 Now NYC, part of the larger coalition that helped paved the way for victory in Seattle, Governor Cuomo is responding to the pressure from workers themselves, but that more still needs to be done. 

“His proposal accepts that NYC in particular should have a higher minimum wage,” Kroop told LaborPress in an email. “If so, Cuomo should permit New York City to decide for itself what that should be. With inflation, Martin Luther King’s fight for $2 an hour in 1963, is the fight for $15 today. So, we will keep organizing and raising the pressure.”

Others have been more pronounced in saying that the governor’s modest proposal, is indeed, too little. 

Daily News columnist and Democracy Now! broadcaster Juan Gonzalez called Cuomo’s proposal “an insult to low-wage workers,” and said the governor has “reneged on a campaign promise he made last May to allow high-cost localities to establish a minimum wage up to 30 percent higher than the state’s.” 

Mauricio Jimenez, a member of Make the Road New York’s board of directors, said the governor’s $10.50 state and $11.50 New York City minimum wage proposal is simply “not enough.”

“Especially if we must wait until 2016, and if it comes without indexing and the real ability for New York City and other high cost areas, like Long Island, to control their own wages,” Jimenez said in a statement. 

Citizen Action Executive Director Karen Scharff, called the governor’s proposal a “missed opportunity” and said that if the chief executive really wants a “vibrant economy that works for everyone, he should make sure that every worker has the opportunity to earn a living wage.”

If the New York State Senate refuses to do what’s necessary to lift workers out of poverty, Jimenez called on Governor Cuomo to “immediately convene a Wage Board and institute a statewide minimum wage of $15 an hour for most workers – together with indexing, a plan for real policing to make sure the wage is enforced, and the actual authority for New York City and other high cost localities to set and enforce their own minimum wages." 

January 21, 2015

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