May 11, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to deliver his progressive “Contract with America” this week, and the announcement could have an immediate impact on municipal workers still not making at least $15 an hour here at home.
Unlike Seattle, where worker advocates where able to move the city to establish a $15 an hour minimum wage, New York City still needs Albany’s approval to raise the wage for everyone here struggling to get by on significantly less than that amount.
That all could change very quickly, at least for municipal workers like New York City crossing guards, because the mayor doesn’t need Albany’s okay to boost their wages, and many on the city council are already urging de Blasio to take action.
Councilmembers I. Daneek Miller, Brad Lander, Daniel Dromm and Ben Kallos are already on record calling for New York City to pay all of its municipal employees a living wage.
Last week, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley [D-30th District], told LaborPress that she, too, would like to see Mayor de Blasio back measures to create a $15 an hour minimum wage for municipal employees.
“I encourage the mayor to take that lead,” Councilmember Crowley said. “I support our crossing guards, and I support increased wages for them.”
Last month, Local 372 announced that the union had struck a new deal with the city paying crossing guards a minimum wage of $11.50 an hour.
But even then, Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I had his eyes set on winning a $15 an hour minimum wage for his members, and, indeed, the rest of the city’s workforce.
“This is just the beginning,” Francios said. “We are not quite there yet, but we will get what we need."
On Saturday, Councilmember Laurie Cumbo [D-35th District] talked to LaborPress about the significance of establishing a $15 an hour minimum wage for New York City’s municipal workers following a talk at a 15 Now NYC forum held on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.
The group 15 Now NYC is part of the national worker advocacy organization started by Seattle Councilmember Kshama Savant that was so instrumental in winning a $15 an hour minimum wage for that city.
“We should be the model of how we want the rest of the city to function and operate,” Councilmember Cumbo said. “If we don’t have our own municipal workforce at, at least $15, what are we saying about what we think the rest of the nation should be doing?
The need to boost the minimum wage for all workers in New York City could not be more stark with about 40 percent of the workforce hovering near the poverty line.
And while Mayor de Blasio continues to push for more affordable housing, Councilmember Cumbo pointed out, “There’s no kind of affordable housing of any sort without $15 an hour."
“I think everyone on the city council recognizes that we have to have a workforce that can afford to live in the city,” the councilmember said.