New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is using his executive authority to raise the minimum wage for state workers to $15 an hour. The increase will take effect first for state workers in New York City, where the cost of living is highest, fully phasing in by the end of 2018. In the rest of the state, the wage floor will slowly climb to $15 by the end of 2021, with the entire change affecting about 10,000 workers in total. Per the New York Times, jobs that will be covered by the increase include “lifeguards, office assistants, and custodial staff.”
The governor formally shared his plan on a rainy Tuesday afternoon at Foley Square in Manhattan. The announcement came on the same day that fast-food workers and other service providers involved in the “Fight for $15” campaign held rallies across the country in support of a $15 minimum wage. In New York, many of them were gathered at Foley Square.
“We made a decision a long time ago that if you work full time you should have a decent lifestyle for you and your family,” Cuomo said. “Franklin Delano Roosevelt, former governor of this great state, signed a minimum wage law into effect, and he said when he signed the minimum wage law, and I quote, ‘By living wage, I mean more than a bare subsistence level—I mean the wages of a decent living.’ That was 1933 and it’s not a decent living today. And it is simple math. If you earn the minimum wage, it’s about $18,000 a year in New York. And you add up the numbers: You can't pay for food and clothing and housing here on $18,000 a year. Period.”
This is the second big move from New York on the wage front in just two months. In September, the Cuomo administration approved a proposal from the state’s labor commissioner to raise base pay for fast-food workers to $15 an hour.
In Pittsburgh, as in New York, Tuesday’s Fight for $15 protests were accompanied by an executive order from Mayor Bill Peduto that city employees would be paid at least $15 an hour by 2021. All in all, the strikes spanned 270 cities across the United States. The rallies were underscored by the launch of a five-point “Fight for $15 Voter Agenda,” which calls for affordable child care, long-term care, a focus on race relations, and immigration reform, in addition to the $15 wage.
Later Tuesday night, the Republican candidates are slated to address jobs, taxes, and the general state of the economy in the fourth GOP debate. Will the minimum wage factor into that? Tough to say. Rick Santorum briefly broached the topic in mid-September when he offered up an unexpectedly stirring defense of having a wage floor in America. But it seems unlikely that fast-food protests will prompt a serious discussion of those issues. And at any rate, we can all probably predict what they’d have to say about a $15 base.