NEW YORK—In advance of elections, over a dozen campaigning politicians stood with workers at City Hall Thursday in support of a higher minimum wage, with offers ranging from $10.10, all the way to $30.
Members of workers’ coalitions cheered at their every word and shouted slogans.
Currently, the New York state minimum wage is $8 and is set to increase to $9 by the end of 2015. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, supports a $10.10 state minimum wage, and the right for New York City to raise its minimum wage even higher. Cuomo is expected to advance the matter next year.
Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, a workers’ coalition, pointed to other cities’ more ambitious minimum wage plans as role models for New York.
Seattle plans to phase in a $15 an hour minimum wage by 2021; San Francisco approved $15 an hour by 2018; and Chicago signed on for $13 an hour by 2018.
“It’s time to make a minimum wage that lifts people up to a middle class economy,” said Assembly candidate Marsha Michael.
Assemblyman David Weprin elaborated on the same theme: “You can’t make ends meet with 8, 9, 10, or even 11 dollars an hour. We really have to raise people up.”
“Someone with a job shouldn’t be struggling with poverty any longer. It should be 20, 25, 30 dollars,” said Assembly candidate Michael Blake.
Some politicians described the problem as systemic, criticizing free enterprise in the United States.
“Fifteen dollars isn’t even enough,” said Councilman Charles Barron, running for State Assembly. “The real, root problem is greedy, exploitative, parasitic capitalism. America needs a radical change in its system of government.”
Assembly candidate Lori Boozer agreed, saying: “This is an issue that this country is built on. This country was never about prosperity, it’s about profit.”
Policy analyst Catherine Ruetschlin, from Demos, a liberal think tank based in Manhattan, observed that in recent years, wages haven’t kept pace with living costs, which may explain the demand for higher minimum wages.
Phasing in wage increases, like what Seattle and other cities plan to do, offers benefits to workers and won’t be as disruptive as the quick changes rally members are demanding, said Ruetschlin.
She noted that the higher minimum wage wouldn’t add up to a lot in a few years. “If the $15 minimum wage were phased in, then, due to inflation, $15 in the future would only be worth $12.50 today.”