February 4, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Mayor Bill de Blasio probably gave workers struggling with an unrealistically low minimum wage reason to both hope and despair during his State of the City address this week, when he called for establishing a $15 an hour minimum wage by 2019.
Referring to Governor Cuomo's latest recommendation to bump up the statewide minimum wage to $10.50, with an extra buck tacked on for New York City workers, Mayor de Blasio said, "The current minimum wage proposal simply doesn't do enough to help New York City."
The mayor instead vowed to fight for a $13 an hour minimum wage by next year. With cost-of-living-indexing, Hizzoner said workers could expect to see a $15 an hour minimum wage – in about five years.
"It's great the mayor knows we need to raise the minimum wage, but I don't see why New Yorkers should wait five years to make $15," Daniel Kroop, spokesperson, 15 Now NYC told LaborPress.
Workers attending minimum wage rallies and fast food strikes around the city have consistently voiced their steadfast belief that a $15 an hour minimum is both needed and attainable right now.
Other cities, if not immediately, are finding their way to $15 an hour quicker than Mayor de Blasio's 2019 timeframe.
"This is pretty much run-of the-mill [that] half a decade from now we will have a $15 an hour minimum wage," Maria Myotte, national communications director, ROC-United told LaborPress. "That's unacceptable for most people. But what I imagine what will continue to happen, will be workers protesting either at rallies or strikes. This matters to their paycheck on a daily basis. No one has the patience, or should have to wait five years to get a raise as urgent as this $15 an hour minimum wage is for most people."
Nevertheless, labor leaders and worker advocates across the city are roundly hailing the mayor's $15 an hour pledge – five years away or not.
"As cities across the country are heeding the call by workers that they need at least $15 an hour to make ends meet, we welcome Mayor de Blasio's call to raise the minimum wage in New York City to $15," Hector Figueroa, president, 32BJ SEIU said in a statement. "This will be a real family-sustaining wage for hard-working New Yorkers and by including indexing, the mayor's proposal offers a long-term solution to ensure that the minimum wage rises with the cost of living. We hope that the state legislature will show the same kind leadership around this issue."
Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York Central Labor Council, issued a statement equally supportive of the mayor's minimum wage stance.
"Wages have been far too low for far too long," Alvarez said. "Mayor de Blasio's commitment is a real step in the right direction toward helping workers get the wages they deserve."
Mayor de Blasio went on to say that "It’s difficult to overstate the positive impact" establishing a $15 minimum wage have on New York City's working men and women.
"Even for those that earn more than minimum right now, this action would create an upward pull on wages… an upward pull on opportunity…. and an upward pull on our economy," the said.
Whether or not they are frustrated with the mayor's five-year timeline, worker advocates, at least for now, appear to be intent on trying to pressure Albany legislators to get behind a minimum wage increase that is also linked to cost-of-living indexation and allows for local wage authorization.