Press Release

Hundreds to Rally to Raise the Minimum Wage in Albany

ALBANY—Hundreds of workers, advocates and members of the clergy will march on the state Capitol in Albany Tuesday, calling on the state legislature to increase the minimum wage to at least $8.75 per hour and ensure that it is indexed to keep up with the rising cost of living in New York.

After marching from Westminster Presbyterian Church to the Capitol, the group will hold a rally and prayer service on the “Million-Dollar Staircase.” They’ll then deliver petitions with more than 25,000 signatures urging lawmakers to give low-wage workers a raise to the Senate’s chambers.

“More than a year ago, we began a campaign together to raise the minimum wage, because New York is the income inequality capital of the nation and we won’t change that without action,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “Today hundreds are gathering in Albany, tens of thousands have signed online petitions, and more than 80% of New Yorkers in recent polls support the call for the strongest possible wage increase. The state’s lowest-paid workers cannot wait any longer. It’s time for Albany to do what is right and raise New York’s minimum wage.”

At $7.25 per hour, New York’s minimum wage remains decades out of date. With growing numbers of New Yorkers relying on low-wage jobs to survive, too many do not earn enough to afford basic expenses. Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed raising New York’s minimum wage to $8.75 per hour, and on Tuesday, low-wage workers and their advocates told members of the Senate it was time they took action on the governor’s initiative.

“Governor Cuomo has cleared the way for raising New York’s minimum wage this year, so the ball is now in the legislature’s court to approve a strong minimum wage increase that makes up for years of neglect and reflects the state’s high cost of living, ” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. ” New York’s minimum wage should be raised to at least $8.75 per hour, as the Governor has proposed, and then it should be indexed to inflation and include additional step increases, to keep it at a meaningful level.”

The Raise the Minimum Wage Coalition supports Gov. Cuomo’s call to increase the minimum wage to $8.75 by July 2013, and is working to encourage the legislature to index the wage for inflation after that and/or include additional step increases above $8.75 to bring it closer to the cost of living.

The march, rally and prayer service came a day after the National Employment Law Project and the Fiscal Policy Institute released a report that showed raising the minimum wage to $8.75 and indexing it to inflation would boost New York’s economy. A hike to $8.75 would raise the paychecks of more than 1.5 million low-paid New Yorkers, generate more than $1 billion in new consumerspending, and support the creation of 7,300 new full-time jobs across the state as businesses expand to meet increased demand, the report showed.

The purchasing power of New York’s minimum wage peaked in 1970 and has lost a third of its value since that time as the cost of basic goods has continued to rise: If New York’s minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since 1970, it would equal $11.15 per hour today. Due to legislative inaction, the state’s minimum wage remained stagnant for two nine-year periods, from 1981-1990 and from 1991-2000, as the cost of living increased over this time. The state’s minimum has increased by only 10 cents in the past six years.

Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO, said, “The days of minimum wage jobs being reserved for high school students earning some extra pocket money are long over. Raising the minimum wage will make a real difference in the lives of workers, many of whom are adults working full time, and many of whom have families to support. Minimum wage workers must spend every dollar earned just to get by, so any additional income they receive will be spent right back in their communities, supporting local employers and growing the tax base. By further indexing the minimum wage, we can provide predictability to both workers and businesses in planning for the future.”

Héctor Figueroa, President of 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, said, “Poll after poll shows that a diverse and growing majority of state residents want the minimum wage increased. New Yorkers from differentpolitical parties, income levels, races and ethnic backgrounds are calling on our state government to take this critically important action, and raise the minimum wage now.

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said, “For too long, income inequality has been a drag on our economy. And, New York’s low-wage workforce continues to be left behind. A stronger minimum wage will help restore the consumer spending that powers our economy and that local businesses need in order to thrive. Every dollar a low-wage worker receives will be spent on needed goods and services. That is among the reasons why we are encouraged by Governor Cuomo’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $8.75. A higher minimum wage will help the state’s lowest-paid workers afford the basic necessities of life, and build better lives for their families.”

Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said, “Make the Road New York members today have joined busloads of other low wage workers to tell Albany how critically we need to raise the state’s minimum wage. The growing intensity of their voices and the leadership of Governor Cuomo and Speaker Silver on this issue shows that the time has come to take this common sense step.

Andrew Friedman, Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy, said, “Raising the minimum wage, and making sure it is indexed to keep up with inflation, will benefit more than million low wage workers throughout NY State and will jumpstart the state’s economy. By working together on this critical issue, Governor Cuomo and the Legislature can create a more just and more economically vibrant New York.”

Michael Kink, Executive Director of the Strong Economy For All Coalition, said, “This is the year, and now is the time. Governor Cuomo has led the way with his budget proposal, and our champions in the Legislature — including Speaker Silver, Senate Co-President Klein and Senate Minority Leader Stewart-Cousins — will be working to make sure this session we leave a legacy of economic fairness for all New Yorkers. Raising the wage to $8.75, indexing for inflation and including additional step increases to get us towhat workers and families really need — it’s all doable, this year.”

Pastor Que English of the New York City Clergy Roundtable, said, “New York’s low minimum wage is not only bad for the economy, it’s an injustice that leavesfull-time workers stuck in poverty. Albany lawmakers have a moral responsibility to not allow another year to pass without raising the minimum wage and indexing it to rise with the cost of living. This is the least they can do.”

Melanie Beam, President of Capital District Local First, a non-profit independent business alliance in the Capital Region, said, “The inadequate minimum wage in New York perpetuates the cycle of poverty for many hard-working New Yorkers. One of the benefits of buying local that groups like ours cite is that, on average, independent businesses pay higher wages, which recirculate into our local economy and tax base. If all New Yorkers can make a wage they can live on, they will spend this money in their local communities, bolstering their neighborhood businesses, which are the true backbone of the economy.”

Myrna Capaldi, a single mother, social services worker from Kingston, NY, and member of the Worker Justice Center of New York,” said, “It’s nearly impossible to survive on $7.25 an hour. I work hard every day to provide for my daughter, but I still struggle to even afford food at the grocery store. My family deserves much better.”