May 15, 2012

Speaker Silver, Labor Chair Wright Announce
Assembly's Approval of Minimum Wage Bill

Legislation Includes Provision that Would Ensure
Minimum Wage is Adjusted for Inflation Annually

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (at podium) is joined by his Assembly Majority Colleagues at news conference shortly before the passage of legislation to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour. Silver said increasing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is a matter of human dignity. The bill was delivered to the Senate.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Labor Committee Chair Keith L.T. Wright today announced the passage of legislation to raise New York State's minimum wage to $8.50 an hour and index it to inflation.

"As working New Yorkers' purchasing power continues to erode, the question is no longer whether a worker or a family can live on the minimum wage, it's whether they can survive on the minimum wage," said Silver. "This well-deserved increase will help hardworking men and women adequately provide for their families in the face of today's economic challenges. The time for action is long overdue. We must fix the economic ladder that has enabled generations to climb into the middle class. This bill makes an important investment in our working families, ensuring that they have the chance to attain financial security and plan for their futures."

"The Assembly Majority is committed to improving the lives of working families across New York and the approval of this bill is an important step toward maintaining this commitment," said Wright. "Raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is a matter of economic fairness. Our plan progressively rewards the hardworking men and women who are struggling to make ends meet by providing them with a much-needed economic boost. I urge our counterparts in the New York State Senate to move this bill through their house and to pay heed to the 78% of New York residents who support the passage of this groundbreaking legislation."

The legislation (A.9148), calls for the minimum wage to increase to $8.50 in January of 2013. The minimum wage will be indexed, requiring an increase each year to adjust for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Indexing will begin January of 2014.

Food service workers who routinely receive gratuities would also receive proportionate increases in the sub-minimum wage, known as the tip wage. Under the legislation, the tip minimum wage for these employees would be raised to $5.86 per hour and would also be indexed annually to adjust for inflation.

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Silver and members of the Assembly Majority listen to Hannah Buckler (at podium), a Girl Scout from Rockland County who spoke at the news conference in support of Silver and the Assembly Majority's legislation to increase the state's minimum wage.

The seventh grader from New City, started a petition in her community to raise the minimum wage after learning of the Speaker's bill while organizing a food drive to increase hunger awareness.

Silver noted that a family with a full-time minimum wage earner would see its monthly income increase by about $200 a month. This increase will ensure hardworking families across New York would not have to choose between paying their rent or purchasing food for their family.

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, said "We bishops don't pretend to be economists, but we are pastors and know from first-hand experience that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the working poor of our state to make ends meet. Many we serve are on the brink of homelessness, with not enough in their paychecks to address the most basic of necessities, like food, medicine or clothing for their children. Thus, we believe an increase in the minimum wage is a moral issue of fairness and justice on behalf of the most poor and vulnerable New Yorkers."

Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the Working Families Party, said "Low wages may be good for Wal-mart and McDonald's but they're bad for New York. The Assembly's vote to raise the minimum wage today could improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers and their families. That's something to be proud of. And it will bring a real jolt of economic stimulus to the state. Now, with new polling showing that a majority of Republicans support raising the minimum wage, it's up to Majority Leader Dean Skelos to show us whether members of the Senate understand what it's like to live on less than $300 a week."

James Parrott, Deputy Director and Chief Economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute, said "Income inequality is a major economic problem in the U.S., and in New York State the gap between the rich and the poor is greater than in any other state. While today's increase is relatively small in relation to the enormity of our income polarization, it is a very important step. The minimum wage increase to $8.50 an hour will also generate 7,500 jobs across the state as low-paid workers are likely to spend every additional cent, boosting sales in local businesses in the neighborhoods where they live."

Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, said "New York's minimum wage has been frozen for years and the Assembly's bill is a critical step towards fixing it. This package would update the minimum wage every year to keep pace with the rising cost of living, which ten states already do. Annual updates to the minimum wage will prevent New York's lowest-paid from being left behind and boost the state's workforce and economy."

Speaker Silver also met with supporters of raising the minimum wage who traveled to Albany to participate in the news conference. Silver announced the findings of a recent Siena Public Opinion Poll that found significant support (78 percent) among the state's voters for raising the minimum wage. Joining the Speaker and proponents of a higher minimum wage in this photo are Labor Committee Chair Keith Wright and Assemblymembers Marcos Crespo, Vanessa Gibson, Philip Ramos and Francisco Moya.
Jon Kest, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change, said "It's impossible to afford groceries, a MetroCard and an apartment in New York City while earning the minimum wage. New Yorkers who are employed full time shouldn't have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage will go a long way in the communities that NYCC organizes in. I applaud that State Assembly for taking a step towards getting low wage workers the raise they deserve."

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and United Food and Commercial Workers, said "This is a significant victory for working people, especially in low-wage sectors and industries like retail. I applaud the New York State Assembly and Speaker Silver for recognizing the moral and economic necessity of raising the minimum wage at a time of rising poverty and inequality. I urge the New York State Senate to stand with the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers who support this minimum wage increase."

Myrna Capaldi, member of the Worker Justice Center-Kingston, New York, said "I am a hardworking and proud parent who suffers in this economic state because every dollar I earn is already spent on basic necessities before I even get my paycheck. I have heard the minimum wage referred to in laughing circles as the poverty wage. I'm not laughing. I struggle to pay my rent, car insurance, put food on the table and gas in my car so I can go to work. I have no discretionary income. This minimum wage increase would bring this laughable poverty wage closer to a living wage for many of us. I would like to thank Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Member Wright for championing this issue and for all their efforts in helping to make this happen. I am appealing to Governor Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Skelos, to support Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's bill. The current economy demands it."