State lawmakers and advocates who support an increase in New York's minimum wage are making a renewed push for the measure amid rising costs, a tight labor market and a recognition of labor's contributions as the summer ends.
The Raise Up NY Coalition at the New York City Labor Day Parade this weekend sought to revive the successful campaign of only a few years ago to increase the state's minimum wage to $15. Supporters of a higher wage point to the higher cost of living squeezing workers out of the gains made from that effort.
“The minimum wage is, at its very core, meant to cover the essentials. Even before this latest round of inflation hit, the purchasing power of working class New Yorkers has deteriorated," said state Sen. Jessica Ramos. "Now, almost ten years since the Fight for $15, we need to reignite this coalition of workers, unions, and business owners who know that we all do better when we all do better. Raising the wage is popular, it’s necessary, and there’s no time like Labor Day to commit to building an economy that works for us all."
Business organizations are likely to oppose any upward change in the state's minimum wage, pointing to the higher cost of doing business in New York and additional price pressures created by inflation. But wage workers in recent years have also made in-roads. Workers at Starbucks and Amazon have successfully made union drives, and some employers have voluntarily lifted their hourly minimum pay in response to a worker shortage.
The bill, backed by Ramos and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, would set the state's minimum wage to the rate of inflation. Counties north of the New York City metropolitan area would hit $15 by the end of 2023 and have their minimum pay tied to inflation after that.
The measure is being pushed after state lawmakers, and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in 2016 agreed to a phased-in hike in the minimum wage over several years by region of the state. The current minimum wage is $15 in New York City, Westchester and Rockland counties as well as on Long Island. It is $13.20 in the rest of the state.
"Increasing the minimum wage is a moral obligation," said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN. "The cost of living in New York continues to rise while wages have remained stagnant since 2018, and $15 an hour just isn't enough. Working people deserve a living wage that keeps up with the rising cost of fundamental needs."