NY State Workers Get First Of Its Kind $15 Minimum Wage

Connor D. Wolf

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday a first of its kind executive order to raise the minimum wage for state workers to $15 an hour in the latest effort to enact the policy statewide.

“I believe that if you work hard and work full-time, you should not be condemned to live in poverty,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Yet millions of families nationwide continue to be left behind by an insufficient minimum wage,” he continued. “It’s time that changed.”

The executive order is just the latest unilateral action by Cuomo to push the $15 minimum wage. A proposal announced Sept. 10 would gradually bring the minimum wage to $15 for all public and private workers in the state by 2021. Prior to the proposal, the state commission on labor approved a plan in July to enact the increasefor fastfood workers. The commission allows for industry specific minimum wages, but to get the statewideincrease, Cuomo will need approval by the state legislature.

Cuomo hopes New York will become the first state in the nation to implement a $15 minimum wage across all workers. At the moment, only cities have passed the $15 minimum wage.

“Today in New York, we are leading by example and creating an economy that is defined by opportunity, not inequality,” Cuomo noted. “We are restoring the fairness and economic justice that built the American dream and standing up for what’s right. I am proud of what we continue to accomplish, because New Yorkers deserve nothing less.”

The executive order is far more likely to overcome any possible challenge. Currently no other state has enacted a $15 minimum wage for public sector workers. The statewide proposal, however, could face significant obstacles, because it needs legislative approval. Republicans, who tend to oppose the $15 minimum wage, hold a majority in the state senate.

Cuomo announced the order during a rally for low-wage workers in New York City. The rally was part of a nationwide, union-backed Fight for $15 protest. The group has led much of the effort by way of rallies and media campaigns. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is a major funder and backer of Fight for $15. SEIU Local 1199 has launched a television spot in July supporting the statewide increase.

Critics argue many businesses don’t have the profits to handle such an increase. If true, they would have few options to offset the added cost of labor. They could increase prices or hire fewer workers. In some cases the businesses may have to close. Seattle became the first to pass a $15 minimum wage back in June 2014. Some businesses within the city have already reported problems because of the increase.

The push has prompted adamant support and opposition. While critics warn of job loss and economic stress,supporters say the $15 minimum wage will help the poor by allowing them to more easily afford basic necessities. The increased spending would then in turn stimulate economic activity. The governor’s office claimsapproximately 10,000 state employees will be benefited.

The New York State Association of School Business Officials warned Oct. 30 that the proposal could cost state school districts $276 million. The New York Farm Bureau said Monday the proposal would cause severe stress on farmers and higher food prices. Wage Reality Check Campaign, a coalition of business and labor groups, launched a campaign Wednesday in opposition to the proposal.

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