Low-Wage Workers Call on New York Lawmakers to Raise the Minimum Wage in the State
Hundreds of fast-wood workers and other low-wage employees from around New York descended on the state Capitol on Tuesday to pressure lawmakers to raise the state's minimum wage from $8 to $10.10 an hour and let local cities raise it even higher.
The effort is unlikely to succeed, however, before lawmakers adjourn this week. While the minimum wage bill has broad support in the state Assembly, it would likely fall a few votes short in the Senate.
"I put in my hours, my labor, for a company that makes billions, and I make $8 an hour," said Omar Freckleton, a McDonald's worker from Brooklyn. "I'm here to make my voice heard. If they (lawmakers) don't do this, it's on them, and we'll remember in November."
One proposal before lawmakers would set the wage at $10.10, allow automatic increases in the future based on inflation and authorize cities like New York City to enact their own starting wages of up to $13.13 per hour.
The minimum wage has emerged as a key priority for Democrats around the country, with President Barack Obama calling for a $10.10 federal minimum and local leaders in Seattle voting to raise the city's wage to $15. State lawmakers in Minnesota, California, Hawaii and Maryland have voted to raise their state minimums in coming years, and similar proposals are expected to pass in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Republicans and trade groups have pushed back, warning that higher minimum wages could force businesses large and small to cut positions and raise prices.
Under current law, New York's wage is set to rise to $8.75 at the end of this year and to $9 at the end of 2015.
The Legislature is expected to adjourn on Thursday, and neither the Assembly nor Senate has scheduled a vote on the minimum wage. The Senate is controlled by a coalition of Republicans and a breakaway faction of Democrats.
Senate co-leader Jeff Klein, the leader of the breakaway Democrats, supports the minimum wage bill and was pushing Tuesday for a vote on the measure.
Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins blamed Republicans for blocking the issue and urged the coalition to reconsider.
"The Senate Republican-led coalition's failure to adequately raise the state's minimum wage has hindered economic growth and severely limited the purchasing power of millions of New Yorkers throughout our state," she said in a statement.
Spokesmen for Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday.