Hundreds of low-wage workers and advocates descended upon Albany today to urge the Senate and Assembly to pass legislation that would raise the state minimum wage to $10.10, index it to inflation, and allow cities and counties to set their wages 30 percent higher than the state’s minimum.
Working to survive in New York State can be a struggle. Karen Scharf with Citizen Action of New York welcomed rallygoers who came from far and wide. "Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Capital District, Hudson Valley, Westchester, New York City, Long Island. Every part of the state because every part of the state needs a raise."
Kimberly from Monticello was among the many loud chanters situated along the million dollar staircase. "Low pay is not OK because everybody deserves higher wages 'cause it's not enough"
Brooklyn Assemblyman Walter Mosely, a Democrat, says "poverty affects everyone" and no one should be "left behind" in the recovering economy. "That includes men women and children, whether they be in the rural counties up north or down in the southern district. Poverty has no identity. Poverty has no party affiliation."
A Siena poll released Monday found an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers – 72 percent – support local governments increasing their minimum wage above the statewide minimum. The poll found strong support in every region of the state.
New York State Council Of Churches Executive Director Paula Gravelle says people shouldn't be forced to decide between paying rent or feeding their children or obtaining medical care. "In this great state, no one should work 40, 50, 60 hours a week and still be unable to provided the basic necessities of life for their families."
Proposed legislation would authorize New York City and other communities to raise the wage to as high as $13.13, and allow future automatic increases based on inflation. The measure has broad support in the state Assembly but would likely fall a few votes short in the Senate.
State Senator Neil Breslin, an Albany Democrat, says raising the minimum wage is about fairness. "It's about making sure that people are able to support families. Not working 40 hours a week and being in poverty. So we have to make changes, and with a full democratic senate we'll do that."
But political observers say the effort to raise wages is unlikely to succeed before lawmakers adjourn Thursday. Statewide and nationally, business groups have traditionally opposed a minimum wage hike. Connecticut and Vermont have already raised minimum wages - Massacusetts is considering a hike.
The International Monetary Fund on Monday called on the U.S. to raise its minimum wage, but left naming a specific levelup to Congress.