Workers, advocates, and members of the clergy marched today on the state Capitol to rally in support of a minimum wage increase as proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his budget address last week Tuesday. The governor’s proposal would increase the current minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 per hour, and although they feel it’s a good start, protestors are calling for a wage that is indexed to inflation, which the governor failed to include.
Gathered among the capitol building’s million-dollar staircase were passionate protestors who marched from Westminster Presbyterian Church located on State Street, holding signage conveying one overall message: working New Yorkers deserve a livable wage, not just the minimum. Protestors were calling on state government to recognize the issue of minimum wage as a “moral issue.”
Bronx Assemblyman Peter Rivera expressed to the group of protestors the importance of them being there and delivering their message at the beginning of the legislative session.
“The governor has a progressive agenda and that includes raising the minimum wage,” he said, adding that each living expanse such as rent, food, or insurance, annually totals more than the current minimum wage.
Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union President Steward Appelbaum, said regarding the need for indexing, the state Legislature can help working families by including an increase for future wages.
“For too long income and equality has been a drag on our economy,” he said. “A higher minimum wage will help the state’s low-paid workers afford the basic necessities of life, and build a better future for their families.”
Elected officials such Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, who has long been a supporter of an increase in minimum wage, said that not only is raising the minimum wage helpful to working families who cannot keep up with the cost of living, but that it also proves to be an economic boaster.
According to the National Employment Law Project released yesterday, a hike to $8.75 per hour would raise paychecks of more than 1.5 million low-paid New York workers, generate more than $1 billion dollars in new consumer spending, and support the creation of 7,300 new full-time jobs across the state as businesses expand to meet increased demand.
Savino’s message to the business community opposing an index is: “It’s good for New York. Let’s get it done.”
Metro Justice, a group of “socially conscious, politically active, and justice-oriented” members of the Rochester area, and Make the Road New York, which works to empower Latino and working class communities, were among the advocate groups to take part in today’s rally.
Sidney Hawkes, a disabled worker affiliated with Metro Justice, said his reason for attending the rally was that he was tired of the “same old story.”
“[It’s a] battle between those who have and those who have-not. The distribution of wealth is out of control,” he said. “These people…they would rather pay us nothing.
Susan DeBois, a member of the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District for 30 years and Albany Labor Council member of 15 years, said she was their to support the people who work hard and don’t get paid enough to live on.
“[Wage] at minimum should include an index because if not, the group supporting the increase will have to be back here next year,” DeBois said. “If the minimum wage kept up with inflation it would be more than $10 per hour to date. If minimum wage kept up with increases in CEO pay, it would be very high.”