For some low-income and down-on-their-luck New Yorkers, the phrase might be “it’s about time.”
Last Tuesday, the New York state Assembly approved an increase of the minimum wage to $9, but the Republican-led New York state Senate’s not welcoming the bill to its ranks. The current state minimum wage is $7.25.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver stated that it’s imperative that this get signed into law immediately.
“Our proposal will directly benefit more than 925,000 New Yorkers. It will benefit families trapped between the desire for financial independence and the constant erosion of their wages,” said Silver during a news conference last week. “By passing this legislation, we will be rewarding hard work with a wage families can live on. Opponents say that raising the minimum wage will hurt small businesses. But let me point out that the majority of low-wage workers are employed not by mom-and-pop shops, but by the large chains that have posted steady profits even during recent periods of economic hardship.”
State Assemblyman Keith Wright also spoke at the news conference and said a vote for the minimum wage increase is a vote for the blue-collar, working-class New Yorker.
“The people of New York have spoken and today, our house will respond loud and clear,” said Wright. “I am pleased to sponsor this responsible and progressive legislation and am elated to see it come to a vote, bringing us one step closer to improving the lives of so many hardworking New Yorkers. It is my hope that today’s aggressive action by the Assembly will spur movement on this vital issue in the otherwise stagnant state Senate.”
As part of Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal, the minimum wage would increase to a recommended $8.75. Sheldon said he didn’t mind that number as long as it is passed by June so it can go into effect in January 2014.
But Senate Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos has said that the increase would result in job losses, especially for small businesses who operate on the margins. Skelos also said that it would cost teenage workers their part-time jobs.
But on the activist front, National Action Network President the Rev. Al Sharpton hosted a news conference and summit with labor leaders, elected officials and workers to call on Skelos, Klein and Senate Republicans to support the $9 minimum wage bill with indexing and bring it to the Senate floor for a vote.
“We’ve not had a raise in minimum wage in this state in several years,” said Sharpton at the National Action Network headquarters on Saturday. “The president has called for it nationally. New York state should set the model. We have declared this today ground zero for the national minimum wage fight.”
City Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu was also in attendance at the rally and said that a minimum wage increase in New York would signal to the rest of the country that it’s high time to follow suit.
“We’ve got to raise the minimum wage. And uplifting the working poor will also have the effect of expanding the middle class,” said Liu. “It’s an economic policy that must be passed and must be passed now.”