NEW YORK - With the unofficial start of summer, some local advocates for workers are turning up the heat on the New York State Senate on the issue of raising New York's minimum wage. The Assembly has already passed a measure that would increase the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour.
Karina Claudio, lead organizer of the group "Make the Road New York," says it's time for the Senate to act as well. Just prior to the long weekend, she marched with about 30 workers, clergy members and community advocates to deliver 1,000 petitions to a state senator's office. They are demanding action, she says.
"We're sending a message that Long Islanders and New Yorkers cannot live on a $15,000 annual salary. That's working to be poor, and we don't want to be working to be poor - we want to be working to have dignity and the respect that our communities deserve."
Gov. Cuomo says he supports raising the minimum wage, but has doubts that the measure will get through the Senate, where the Republican leaders have labeled the bill a "jobs killer." The State Business Council and Farm Bureau oppose the increase, while the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce and companies like Costco support it, saying it would be good for business.
James Parrott, chief economist with the Fiscal Policy Institute, says most studies show raising the minimum wage would not adversely affect jobs. He also says opponents are wrong when they suggest that the measure would just give teenagers extra spending money.
"In fact, 85 percent of minimum-wage workers in New York are adults; many are trying support families. So, this is an important way to increase the wages of low-wage workers who are struggling to raise families."
Parrott says his organization's latest study shows 880,000 New York workers would benefit directly.
"Statewide, the average proportion of the workforce affected by the minimum wage increase is about 10.1 percent, even higher in many upstate counties. The Bronx is also very high, because it has a high concentration of low-wage workers."
Bill sponsor Sen. Sheldon Silver says he still believes the Senate can be persuaded to take up the measure.
"Today, with 12,600 dues-paying members, MRNY is a unique amalgam of worker center, legal clinic, citizenship school, mutual aid society, policy shop, protest factory and church. Its four offices in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island are an egalitarian oasis for members, who gather there for conversation and classes..."