Capping off a day of Fight for $15 walkouts and rallies across the state, Governor Cuomo announced on Tuesday night that his administration will gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 for all workers employed by New York State.
The announcement comes less than four months after the Governor's Fast Food Wage Board voted in favor of a $15 minimum specifically for that industry, and makes New York the first state in the America to apply that same minimum to its own employees.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) November 10, 2015
"You can't pay for housing and food and clothing on $18,000 a year, period, and that's what today is all about," Cuomo said last night, addressing thousands of Fight for $15 supporters at a rally in the Financial District.
About 10,000 workers will see their wages increase gradually as a result of Cuomo's decision, 90% of whom live outside New York City, according to the Governor's office. For context, there are more than 20,000 government employees across the state who currently make less than $15 an hour. As the NY Times points out, Cuomo's gesture will cost the state relatively little in the long run—about $20.3 million annually by 2021, out of the state's $150 billion budget.
Hourly rates will reach $15 by 2018 for the 1,000 State employees in NYC, and by 2021 at the state level. (The same rationale was implemented by the Fast Food Wage Board—the cost of living in NYC exceeds that of the rest of the state.) Executive Agencies apply, as does the State Legislature, Judiciary, the Law Department, and State Comptroller's office.
Office assistants, custodians, and seasonal workers like lifeguards also qualify, according to the NY Times.
In New York City, the minimum hourly wage will increase slightly every year, starting at the end of 2015: To $10.50 this December 31st; $12.00 by Dec. 31, 2016; $13.50 by Dec. 31, 2017; and $15 by Dec. 31, 2018.
At the state level, the recommendation is more gradual: $9.75 by this Dec. 31st; $10.75 by the end of 2016; $11.75 in 2017; $12.75 in 2018; $13.75 in 2019; $14.50 in 2020; and $15.00 by July 1, 2021.
Misleading to say Cuomo raising minimum wage to $15/hour for state workers since it’s effective in 2021. What is $15 now was $13.52 in 2009.
— Jordan Zakarin (@jordanzakarin) November 10, 2015
"Lifting the wage for state workers is a great start—and the legislature should get on board with the next step of increasing the minimum wage for ALL workers," said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union which helped launch the Fight for $15 campaign in 2013.
In response to Cuomo's announcement, mayoral spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick took part, unsurprisingly, in some sparring. She pointed out that city workers currently make more than state workers—from $11.79 per hour. The State minimum won't hit $10.50 until the end of 2015.
"Our labor agreements already put City employees ahead of the State's minimum wage phase-in for NYC employees, through the end of our contracts," Spitalnik said in a statement. "Of course the Mayor will continue to fight to ensure all workers, across every industry, make a wage on which their families can live."
At yesterday's 6:00 a.m. fast food walkout and rally in Downtown Brooklyn, workers spoke to the financial hardships they face on a daily basis. For many of them, the prospect of $15 per hour three years down the road is a victory with asterisks.
Jamal, a McDonald's worker, recited a poem he had written for the occasion. One stanza read: "A raise is great, but my bills need to be paid/ And 2018 is too far away."
"Employers can show that our lives matter by raising the wage to $15 and giving us a union," said Amber Graham, another low-wage worker. "Not next year, not in 2018, but today."