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Mayoral Hopefuls Back Low-wage Raises

March 11, 2013
Marc Bussanich

The Dow Jones Industrial Average reached an all-time high last week by breaking the 2007 record index of 14,200. But while Wall Street traders and executives are celebrating their growing wealth in lower Manhattan, low-wage workers gathered at the National Action Network’s House of Justice in Harlem on Saturday to call on State Senate leaders to support a $9 an hour minimum wage bill with indexing. (Read More)

Reverend Al Sharpton, President of NAN, was joined by Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union; Vinny Alvarez, President of the NYC Central Labor Council; Maria Castaneda, Secretary-Treasurer for 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East; and Assemblyman Keith Wright who introduced legislation in January 2012 that would have raised the current minimum wage on January 1, 2013 from $7.25 an hour to $8.50, but State Senate leaders have failed to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

The State Assembly passed the bill last week, coming off the heels of President Barak Obama’s call in his State of the Union address last month to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour with indexing.

According to Wright and co-sponsor Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the higher minimum wage would benefit more than a million New Yorkers and boost local economies.

“Studies show that minimum wage earners spend their extra dollars immediately in their corner stores, local pharmacies and neighborhood restaurants, thereby spurring economic growth and creating jobs.”

­­­­­Two mayoral hopefuls also appeared with Rev. Sharpton to show their support for a higher minimum wage. The city’s public advocate, Bill de Blasio, said that the city’s growing income inequality that is worsening daily is precluding opportunity for thousands of New Yorkers.

“How is it that what’s supposed to be the most progressive state in the nation we’re having to fight for a minimum wage just so families can get by. We shouldn’t be having this discussion in New York State; it should be a given. But we will have to fight for it,” de Blasio said.

City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, said she and the council would be passing at this Wednesday’s stated council meeting a resolution that urges the State Senate to pass the higher minimum wage with indexing.

“When we pass that resolution on Wednesday, I think it’ll send the message to Albany on behalf of all 8.4 million New Yorkers that New York City, the financial capital of the world, knows that the vast majority of workers who will have their wages raised by an increase in the minimum wage, work for huge companies that have more than enough money to sustain this,” Quinn said.

Alvarez said that years of economic policies tilted in favor of the wealthy have taken a toll on working people in the city and throughout the country.   

“Raising the minimum wage is the appropriate thing and right thing to do. Economic disparity, income inequality, these are both economically unacceptable and morally unacceptable. This economy is not sustainable if we don’t close the gap of income equality.”

Rev. Sharpton said that one week before the State of the Union address, President Obama invited leaders of the nation’s leading civil rights organization to the White House and told them what he would discuss in his speech.

“National policy is set by local activism. How we got the national civil rights act of 1964 was out of the local movement in Birmingham, Alabama. How we got the National Voting Rights Act of 1965 was out of the local mobilization in Selma, Alabama. New York must be the laboratory that we show the nation how workers must be respected and given a livable wage. No other city has to watch people look at the [financial] market all day while we can’t afford to go to the market to feed our children.”

According to a recent Sienna College Research Institute poll, more than three-quarters of New York voters polled support increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour. However, The Business Council of New York State opposes the legislation by Assemblymen Wright and Silver. They say they oppose the increase because employers will have to eliminate jobs or reduce workers' hours, raise prices, defer investments or reduce profits.

"Raising the minimum wage will impact retailers, tourism, small businesses, farms and not-for-profits and reduce opportunities."

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