January 13, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – When Governor Andrew Cuomo officially launched the “Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice” at 1199 SEIU headquarters last week, he proudly announced the State University of New York [SUNY] will be phasing in a $15 an hour minimum wage for workers as part of his overall strategy to “chip away” at opposition to the statewide salary boost — this week, City University of New York [CUNY] workers are wondering how long it’ll take for similar fairness to trickle down to them.
“We thought that the ‘Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice’ would be extended to us, and we’re really hoping for [Governor Andrew Cuomo’s] leadership here,” DC37 Assistant Associate Director Jahmila Joseph told LaborPress this week. “It’s very disappointing that he’s failed to acknowledge the workers living in the most expensive city in the world that are within his purvey, in how he can help them — and he’s chosen not to.”
On January 4, Governor Cuomo characterized the fight for a statewide $15 an hour minimum wage as a fundamental question of right and wrong that began with raising the minimum wage for fast food workers.
“We then said we’re going to take the entire state workforce, and we’re going to bring $15 to the New York State workforce,” Governor Cuomo said. “Today, [SUNY] Chairman Carl McCall and Chancellor Nancy Zimpher announced they’re bringing the minimum wage, $15 [an hour], to the SUNY schools and the SUNY Workforce all across the state. We’re going to continue that track more and more. Reaching out to other business, reaching out to other government officials, asking them to come on board. Asking Comptroller Scott Stringer, [Public] Advocate Letitia James – bring the city of New York with us — join this crusade.”
About 10,000 DC37 members — college assistants to custodians — work for CUNY. More than half of them earn less than $10 an hour.
Although sad, Joseph said that she was not at all shocked about being left out of the governor's announcement.
“Unfortunately, I was not surprised,” Joseph added. “We have been advocating for this for quite some time. Our members have been without a contract since 2009.”
PSC-CUNY union leader Barbara Bowen applauded the governor’s move to include SUNY workers in the fight for $15, but said it is now time to extend the same consideration to CUNY workers.
“We are hopeful that will be part of a move to make decent funding at CUNY," Bowen said at a rally outside Cuomo's NYC offices on Monday. "When all over the state we’re hearing a call for a $15 an hour minimum wage, and we’re hearing the governor support that call, that should absolutely be a piece of the workforce the governor actually pays for."
Governor Andrew Cuomo will deliver his sixth State of the State Address on Wednesday, January 13. The state is set devote some $23 billion to education — but advocates say a closer look at the numbers reveals proper funding is not actually taking place.