The governor’s proposal would leave low-wage workers, especially those in New York City, far behind the minimum rates already approved in places like Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Cuomo has even reneged on a campaign promises he made last May to allow high-cost localities to establish a minimum wage up to 30% higher than the state’s.
Low-wage workers in New York City deserve, at best, half a loaf more of bread.
That’s the message Gov. Cuomo sent Sunday with his long-awaited proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage.
President Obama, during his State of the Union speech Tuesday, called once again for a hike in the federal minimum wage. (The current federal rate of $7.25 is a complete disgrace. It doesn’t even cover a worker’s bare necessities.)
But given the current Republican majority in Congress, Obama’s plea for federal action will go nowhere.
The only hope for millions of working poor right now is at the state and city levels. That’s why a vast popular movement for a living wage has swept the country the past few years, spearheaded by protests and walkouts by fast food and retail service workers at companies like Walmart and McDonald’s. As a result, 20 states and many cities increased their minimum wage rates this year.
So what is the response of Cuomo, the governor of an overwhelmingly Democratic state — one where 825,000 workers are currently receiving the state minimum wage of $8.75 an hour?
The governor is proposing a hike that would leave them, especially those in New York City, far behind the minimum rates already approved in places like Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
He has even reneged on a campaign promise he made last May to allow high-cost localities like New York City to establish minimums up to 30% higher than the state’s.
Cuomo wants the state minimum to reach $10.50 by Dec. 31, 2016. It was already scheduled to rise to $9 by the end of this year. And he wants to allow the city a minimum of $1 more — $11.50 an hour.
At first glance, it looks good, until you realize what’s already happened in other cities:
* San Francisco’s minimum will jump to $12.25 an hour starting May 1, and to $15-an-hour by 2018;
* Seattle’s to $11 an hour on April 1, and to $15 by 2017;
* Chicago to $10 an hour on July 1, and to $13 by 2019,
* Washington’s to $10.50 on July 1, and 11.50 next year.
Many of the new rates have annual cost-of-living adjustments.
But Cuomo’s proposal has no cost-of-living index, something he promised last May to both Mayor de Blasio and leaders of the Working Families Party when the mayor helped pressure the liberal group to endorse the governor’s reelection.
The governor’s proposed rate increase for the city amounts to almost $2 an hour less than what he promised back then, and that’s before negotiating with state Senate Republicans.
“We were dismayed to see him backtracking from the commitment he made,” said Deborah Axt, co-director of Make the Road New York and a Working Families Party activist. “His plan does not allow Long Island or other high-cost areas outside the city to set their own rates. And with no talk of indexing, we’ll be having this fight over and over again in other years.”
Mayor de Blasio’s spokesman, Phil Walzak, was less than ecstatic about the Cuomo plan.
“There is no question that reducing income inequality remains the central challenge we face today,” Walzak said in a statement. “The city looks forward to working with the governor and Legislature to build on this minimum wage proposal.”
New York’s low-wage workers, in other words, deserve more than half a loaf.
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