Governor Cuomo announced today the launch of the Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice, a new push in the fight for a statewide minimum wage of $15 dollars per hour. The two-pronged campaign entails both lobbying the state legislature, which begins its 2016 session on Wednesday, and making incremental progress industry by industry — the latest of which is the state's public education system, which will begin raising its workers' wages to $15-per-hour. The State University of New York wage increase will affect approximately 28,000 workers, including students on work-study jobs, the New York Times reports. Ultimately, this measure will cost $28 million, which will come out of the state university system's budget, but will not extend to workers at City University of New York campuses.
This raise for SUNY workers follows the governor's executive orders to increase wages similarly for fast food workers and state employees. SUNY's minimum wage will go up to $9.75 next month, and continue increasing until 2021, when it will reach $15/hour. The process will move a bit more quickly at SUNY schools in New York City, such as Maritime College and Downstate Medical Center, which will reach $15/hour by 2018.
"The minimum wage means something. It's not an expression," Cuomo said at a rally at 1199 SEIU in Manhattan today. "[FDR] said, 'By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level — I mean the wages of a decent living.' I mean, the minimum wage doesn't even work numerically in this state...the numbers don't even add up."
Wage increases at SUNY are just one part of a broader push for a statewide minimum wage of $15/hour. State legislators shot down a $15/hour wage increase in 2015, but the advocates behind the #NYFightFor15 campaign are hoping that by making smaller changes industry by industry and canvassing statewide, they can get a more favorable outcome this time around.
Notably, the SUNY raise does not encompass the CUNY campuses, which receive 10 percent additional funding from the city government but were facing a $51 million budget shortfall as of December. CUNY has failed to give 25,000 of its workers a raise since 2010, partially because of a lack of the state funding that accounts for about half of its budget — a matter that recently prompted presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders to pen a strongly-worded letter to Cuomo urging him to "show New Yorkers that [his] concern for working people and people of color includes a commitment to their ability to achieve a college education."
"Lifting the wage floor for fast-food workers, state employees and now SUNY workers is the right thing to do," said Barbara Bowen, president of CUNY's faculty and staff union, in a statement. "But singling out CUNY's workers on the state payroll for exclusion is a monumental failure. No institution embodies the progressive, pro-worker, anti-poverty goals of the minimum wage more than CUNY...Cuomo's continuing refusal to invest in decent pay for CUNY workers is hurting the whole University."