January 27, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Worker advocates fighting to bring a $15 an hour minimum wage to the Empire State have rejected Governor Cuomo’s proposal to modestly bump up the existing rate, saying the chief executive’s plan leaves New York far behind other progressive cities including Seattle and San Francisco.
New York’s current $8.75 an hour minimum wage is set to rise to $9 an hour next year. Governor Cuomo is proposing a new $10.50 statewide minimum wage with a buck more for New York City. But workers on the ground insist that they need at least $15 an hour if they are realistically going to keep their heads above water in this town.
According to a new Hart Research Associates poll, almost 65 percent of Americans agree with them, and favor boosting the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The group known as “15 Now” successfully moved Seattle’s city government to back a $15 minimum wage last year. Workers in both that Pacific Northwest city, as well as San Francisco, will see a $15 minimum wage over the next three years.
The local chapter of 15 Now says that New York City needs a “major increase that reflects what working people need and want.”
In a statement, Daniel Kroop, spokesperson for 15 Now NYC, said that legislators here should adopt a statewide $15 an hour minimum wage, while also giving New York City, Westchester and Long Island the ability to raise the minimum wage to as high as $20.
Efforts to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 have started picking up traction of late, thanks in large part to fast food workers who have hit the streets over the last couple of years – with the help of organized labor – in daylong demonstrations protesting the status quo.
Private sector giant Aetna Inc. recently seemed to catch the zeitgeist as well, when it announced its lowest paid employees will begin earning $16 an hour.
In making the decision, Aetna Chief Executive Mark T. Bertolini said that his company wants a “better and more informed workforce.”
Some worker groups and labor organizations have appeared reticent about directly condemning Cuomo's very modest proposal, even though it contradicts an earlier pledge the governor made for a more meaningful wage hike.
While allowing that the governor’s proposal is “welcome relief,” 15 Now NYC appears to have little qualms about telling the the chief executive that he is failing working people throughout the state.