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All New Yorkers need a raise

Stuart Appelbaum | 11/26/2015, midnight
New York’s low-wage workers are facing another difficult holiday season. They know it will be a struggle to just pay ...
Stuart Applebaum

New York’s low-wage workers are facing another difficult holiday season. They know it will be a struggle to just pay the bills and put food on the table, before even considering what it will take to buy gifts for their families.

Gov. Cuomo’s recent action to raise minimum pay for New York State workers to $15 an hour is a good first step toward helping working people in the Empire State. The governor deserves credit for this move, and we applaud his efforts to raise wages for hard-working New Yorkers.

But there are still hundreds of thousands of other workers throughout New York who need a raise as well. Retail workers,representing the largest percentage of New Yorkers who work at minimum wage or slightly above, desperately need more pay. Carwash workers, home health aides, food-service workers and many in other industries all deserve more than the terribly insufficient $8.75 minimum wage that New York State mandates.

And they can’t wait. We need immediate change to help working New Yorkers build better lives and provide for their families. We’ve seen the support that the public has for raising minimum pay rates. It’s evidenced in polls, and it’s evidenced through the thriving nationwide Fight for $15 movement. Low-wage workers are staging strikes, and thousands are rallying in support of action that would help the estimated 64 million Americans who work for less than a $15 hourly wage.

Cuomo and the New York Assembly have voiced their support for raising New York State’s minimum wage to $15. The New York State Senate needs to get on board and realize that workers on Long Island and in upstate New York need a raise as much as workers in New York City. This action is needed now and would strengthen our state, our communities and our economy. It would be a game-changer, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the best solution to income inequality is still unionization. Workers face many issues on the job besides low wage rates—they need control over scheduling, better benefits and representation in the workplace.

Government action to increase wage rates, along with policies that encourage and protect collective bargaining, can help us realize the promise of a New York economy that serves everyone.