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Know Your Rights
Source: Legislative Gazette
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Group pushing for $15 minimum wage

Low wage workers from across the state and advocates of community and labor groups called on the state Assembly and Senate to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour during a news conference Monday afternoon.

“Nationwide leadership on the minimum wage means $15 per hour,” said Mike Kink, the executive director of the Strong Economy for All coalition, who called the state’s low wage workers the leaders of the movement. “We urge Speaker Heastie and the Assembly Democratic Majority to join with the fast food and low wage workers who have shown the way and join the “fight for $15″ in their one house budget.”

Currently, $8.75 per hour is New York’s minimum wage. While Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently proposed an increase of $10.50 statewide and $11.50 for New York City, the Raise up New York Coalition says that is not good enough for New Yorkers to afford the basics of food, rent and clothing. The advocates’ proposal would put the state’s minimum wage on a path to $15.

“A raise to $10.50 will help, but it’s still not enough,” said Erika Peterson, 28, who works about 40 hours a week at Wendy’s and is a single mother of two children. “What we really need is $15 an hour- a living wage.”

Ninety percent of people who would see an increase in wages if a $15 minimum wage were adopted would be over the age of 20 and 55 percent of them would be women, according to the advocates who spoke at the press conference. An increase in the minimum wage will affect women and adults most, and lift more than 100,000 New Yorkers out of poverty, according to the Governor’s Office.

“I was working in retail and going to college at the same time, but I had to take time off school because I wasn’t making enough,” said Nacelle Pena, 20, who is a sales associate in Zara in New York City. “Right now, I’m just trying to save money so I can take classes again. But unless I’m earning $15 an hour, I do not see how that is going to happen.”

In total, more than 1.35 million workers will experience an increase in wages statewide, with the majority of benefits going to adults and women, according to a statement released by the Governor’s Office Monday. The direct economic impact across the state as a result of these higher wages is approximately $3.4 billion.

“The minimum wage should allow people who work full-time jobs to support themselves and their families – but that is just not possible today,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “Our proposal will help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers better sustain themselves and live with dignity and respect. The State Legislature must pass our proposal this year, because the sweetest success is shared success and we won’t rest until we are all rising together.”

More than 594,000 New Yorkers earn the current minimum wage of $8.75 per hour. The state has taken action to raise the minimum wage incrementally from $7.25, when Gov. Cuomo came to office, to $9.00 by the end of 2015. However, low wage workers and advocates belonging to community and labor groups say the governor’s proposal to raise the wage to $10.50 would not change support the workers’ life in the state.

“The cost of living in New York state is very high. Every year, basic things like food and rent goes up, but our wages are stuck,” said Maria Teneseca, a member of Make the Road New York, who is a low wage worker. “I struggle every week to put food on the table and support my family because $9 an hour is not enough and what the governor is proposing is not either.”

Bill Lipton, the director of the New York Working Families Party, said the governor’s proposal would be helpful, but it is not good enough to provide a living wage in New York.

“If the proposal passes, it will help, but the truth is, workers and their children will still struggle below the poverty line,” Lipton said.

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