Backed by hissing hi-hats and screaming himself hoarse ("Do we have HTC in the house? Do we have 1199 in the house?") Governor Cuomo on Tuesday made his well-worn and on-brand case for a $15 minimum wage for all of New York State and 12 weeks of paid family leave. His wage plan calls for a phase-in to mirror the fast food worker wage increase announced last year—$15 per hour by December 31st, 2018 for NYC, and by July 1st, 2021 for the rest of the state.
About 5,000 workers including custodians, nurse assistants, airport wheelchair attendants, healthcare workers and security guards traveled to the State capitol on Tuesday, in what a spokeswoman for the service workers union SEIU 32BJ called the "largest rally to date in the fight for $15." The current minimum wage in New York State is $9 per hour. A win would make New York the first state in the country to enact a state-wide $15 minimum.
— Jon Campbell (@JonCampbellGAN) March 15, 2016
Comparing his own goals to Donald Trump's notorious immigration policy ("They say we want to make America great again, we say you don't know what makes America great in the first place"), Cuomo promised that both policies will be built into the $150 billion State budget up for vote on April 1st. "We're gonna pass minimum wage! We're gonna pass paid leave!" he shouted.
Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Monday denied a report that the republicans were ready to endorse the $15 minimum wage, albeit with a longer phase-in timetable, saying only that he was in the midst of "very, very detailed discussions.” The NY Times reports that the paid leave proposal is closer to approval, although the financing details and length of leave (perhaps shorter than 12 weeks) is still being hashed out.
Among those opposing the $15 minimum wage is a contingent of small business owners, who argue that owners of small business won't be able to absorb the wage increase without consequence. A 2010 study by the Institute for Research Labor and Employment found “no evidence of job losses for high impact sectors such as restaurants and retail" in US counties that implemented higher minimum wages over a 16-year period.
Speaking with Gothamist on Tuesday, Sandra Luke, a wheelchair attendant at LaGuardia airport, said she was feeling hopeful. Luke, 56, lives in Flatbush, and helps support family in Trinidad with her $10.10/hour wage. "Trust me, a little more will never hurt nobody, you understand?" she said, laughing. "For now, if that's what they're offering we're grateful. But we could do with some more."