Author: Robert Creenan
When the State of New York announced its proposed plans to raise the minimum wage, it included a notable difference between end goals in Upstate New York and the New York City/Long Island area. If the proposed measures come to pass, fast food workers Upstate (Buffalo) will get $15 by 2021, and downstate (NYC etc) will get $15 by 2018.
Mayor Brown’s office released a statement that offered praise for the budget, mentioning the plan calls for 12 weeks of paid family leave, along with the increased wage. It doesn’t mention the eventual disparity between Upstate and Downstate.
Regarding the statewide minimum wage increase*:
- For workers in New York City employed by large businesses (those with at least 11 employees), the minimum wage would rise to $11 at the end of 2016, then another $2 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2018.
- For workers in New York City employed by small businesses (those with 10 employees or fewer), the minimum wage would rise to $10.50 by the end of 2016, then another $1.50 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2019.
- For workers in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties, the minimum wage would increase to $10 at the end of 2016, then $1 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2021.
- For workers in the rest of the state, the minimum wage would increase to $9.70 at the end of 2016, then another .70 each year after until reaching $12.50 on 12/31/2020 – after which will continue to increase to $15 on an indexed schedule to be set by the Director of the Division of Budget in consultation with the Department of Labor.
In response, the Coalition for Economic Justice (CEJ) offered a response, saying that the disparity will eventually relegate the cities hardest hit by the recession to “second-citizen status”. They also have a proper slogan to go along with the discrepancy. “We are one New York. We Deserve One Fair Wage.”
The CEJ has been working to make sure workers have what they need in order to survive. One of their main campaigns over the last 2 years has been to raise the minimum wage up to $15/hour. Members have been in contact with other groups around the country, and the world, to make this happen. As it stands, the proposed new budget plan is something of a mixed bag for advocates.
Rev. Kirk Laubenstein, Executive Director for the CEJ, did say while the planned wage increase is a step in the right direction, it won’t be enough by the time 5 years passes by. “By 2021,” Laubenstein said. “Buffalo workers will need approximately $15.72 to take care of themselves and live on food stamps.”
In Laubenstein’s view, people talk of Buffalo being a unified city, but Buffalo is still divided in terms of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, which mostly falls on racial lines. “Many people of color have high unemployment and/or lower paying jobs,” Laubenstein said. “If you want to talk about ‘1 Buffalo’ in any sense of the world, you have to get a handle on the situation.”
The CEJ does plan on promoting a day of action on April 14 where they will hold a rally at 10 Winter Street at 3pm near the Massachusetts Ave. Park, before marching onto a McDonald’s to demand good wages and good housing. CEJ will be working with its partners at PUSH Buffalo to move forward the agenda.