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Raising the minimum wage would move everyone forward

STUART APPELBAUM President of RWDSU | 10/25/2012, 1:59 p.m.
At Hi-Tek Car Wash, sending a message of change to low-wage workers

Across New York state, countless minimum wage workers are struggling to get by, put food on the table, pay the bills and provide for their families while earning only $7.25 an hour. The purchasing power of New York's minimum wage has declined an astounding 48 percent since 1970, leaving us with an outdated, outrageously low legal pay rate in a state with the highest cost of living in the country. Families simply cannot survive when breadwinners are bringing home only $15,000 a year--far below the poverty line for a family of three.

Despite working full-time jobs, families are forced to use food pantries, homeless services and public benefits just to make ends meet. No working person deserves to live in poverty. Until our state legislators raise the minimum wage, we'll continue to see an increase in our state's working poor.

That's why Gov. Andrew Cuomo is to be congratulated for announcing in October that he wants raising the state minimum wage to be a legislative priority. With polls showing that New York's voters overwhelmingly support a minimum wage increase, and Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver voicing their support, the climate is perfect to create a livable standard for all of New York's working people.

Some Republicans in the New York Senate--led by Majority Leader Dean Skelos--continue to oppose raising the minimum wage, using the same old rhetoric and scare stories about hurting small businesses and destroying jobs. They've used that rationale to continually stand in the way of economic progress for New York's working families. Earlier this summer, they blocked a bill that would have raised the minimum rate to $8.50 per hour, with indexing (increases tied into inflation).

However, recent studies have put holes in their argument, pointing toward economic growth and job creation resulting from increasing the state's minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage would stoke the state economy by increasing workers' spending power while creating upwards of 25,000 jobs.

It's a commonsense measure that will move the entire state forward, and there's no more effective solution to the problem of helping the overwhelming number of New Yorkers who can't make ends meet. Our communities are depending on New York lawmakers to take up the governor's call and act quickly on this important issue.