BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
One of the several sources of tension between New York City and Albany – the debate over a municipal minimum wage – took a step in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s direction last week.
While de Blasio wants the City to have the option to set its own minimum wage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo believes such a law would be destructive to the State economy.
The Council approved a resolution last Wednesday known as RaiseUpNY, which allows for local governments to raise their own minimum wage.
“It is more expensive to live in New York City than anywhere else in the State and it only makes sense that the minimum wage reflects that reality,” Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said in a statement released last week.
Dromm and Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) introduced the resolution, which was sponsored by State Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblyman Karim Camara (D-Crown Heights).
Just before the resolution passed, Dromm and Miller gathered on the City Hall steps alongside a number of fast food workers and members of RaiseUpNY to support the legislation.
“This Council urges the State Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign this important bill,” Miller said. “It will enable working families in New York City to address the needs of our City’s high cost of living.”
Dromm and Miller also noted that most people in the City living on the minimum wage are Black, Latino and women.
For Dromm, one important consequence of this fact is that women find themselves almost impoverished if they become single family bread winners, and having to take up second or third jobs, lose time with their children and their children’s schools.
“The impact on families is great,” Dromm said. “We shouldn’t expect people to have to go out and get second and third jobs in order just to get by.”
According to the Economic Policy Institute, a family of four living in New York City requires almost $95,000 per year to “attain a secure yet modest living standard” that covers basic necessities.
This total is more than twice what two parents working full-time on minimum wage would make even after the $9 minimum wage begins in New York State by 2016.
Whitney Charles has been working on the minimum wage at KFC for about two years.
“Eight dollars an hour is too low,” she said. “I’m currently a student in school and I find myself [having] to choose between a Metro Card or my school books, and I also have to pay rent.”
“I have to make a lot of necessary sacrifices,” Charles added.
If Albany approves the measure, New York City would join a handful of other American cities that set their own minimum wage, including Seattle, San Francisco and Santa Fe.
Cuomo has stated that he opposes the municipal minimum wage, because it would create chaos, with cities trying to steal business from one another.
Nevertheless, Dromm remains hopeful for the municipal minimum wage effort.
“I do expect it to be passed in Albany,” he said. “New York State is the progressive capital of the world, the Governor has said that himself. Issues of economic justice are vitally important to maintaining that title.”
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.