New York, NY – Even with the hard-fought bump to $15 an hour — New York City’s minimum wage isn’t enough to make it in this town — and everyone knows it. So, how does $30 an hour sound?
That’s how much activist and journalist Nomiki Konst says it should be. The Bernie Sanders surrogate and member of the Democratic Socialists of America is hoping to succeed Letitia James as New York City public advocate.
A special election for the vacated post will be held early in 2019 should James win her bid to become New York State’s next attorney general.
New York City was Ground Zero for the successful Fight for $15 movement — but not everyone within the House of Labor thought it ever went far enough.
“We needed $15 an hour now — under this structure,” Local 372 President Shaun Francois I told LaborPress back at the start of 2016. “Indexing [to inflation] would have been a doggone good thing. If we had been doing that, we wouldn’t be having these problems.”
More than half of New Yorkers are rent burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Some estimates put the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in New York City at $2964 a month. A full-time worker earning a $15 an hour minimum wage earns just $31,200 annually.
Most workers in other parts of New York State and those employed at smaller businesses won’t catch sight of a $15 an hour minimum wage until 2021. And tipped workers in a variety of industries continue to fight for One Fare Wage.
Three years ago, a coalition of clergy leaders rallying in Harlem called for a $20 an hour minimum wage. Reverend Michael Walrond of the First Corinthian Baptist Church, insisted that establishing a $20 living wage for all workers is not “some far-flung notion” or “whimsical hope.”
“We will make history,” Reverend Walrond said at the time.
Airport workers in New York and New Jersey have already come close — recently winning a $19 an hour minimum wage by 2023.
Last week, during an appearance on the Jimmy Dore Show, Konst said that she is running for New York City public advocate on a platform that includes raising the minimum wage for all municipal workers to $30 an hour over the next two years.
“That is just getting by in New York, by the way,” Konst said. “So, $15 minimum wage was not adjusted to inflation, and it was to be over time, and it’s $12 Upstate — nobody can afford to live off of $15 an hour in New York City. Not to mention if you have to live in an outer borough and commute in, and there are subway issues, and then you have childcare costs, and you have to work multiple jobs. This is unacceptable at this point.”
Nobody can afford to live off of $15 an hour in New York City. — Nomiki Konst, candidate for New York City public advocate.
Governor Cuomo voiced support for indexing the minimum wage to inflation at a 1199SEIU rally held in January, 2016, saying, “What fair would have been, was to index [the minimum wage] to a rate like inflation, so it went up over time.”
A month later, union President George Gresham also talked about raising the minimum wage and linking it to inflation, but expressed caution.
“We don’t want to scare people,” he told LaborPress. “First we’ve got to get a living wage established. Then we fight to index that going forward into the future.”
In addition to establishing a $30 an hour minimum wage for municipal workers, Konst is also advocating “across the board” rent control to help small businesses survive souring real estate prices, as well as abolishing the subway fare for New Yorkers.