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Call for $15 minimum wage returns, despite opposition

Ryan Delaney
Supporters of a higher minimum wage sign a board at a rally in Syracuse Wednesday.

With some successes but little political momentum, organized labor and low wage workers are continuing to call for a $15 minimum wage. 

Brittany Buffman once earned minimum wage in a job at the dining halls of Syracuse University. She says union efforts to pump pay the college allowed her and her husband to buy a house and raise a family.

"This movement isn’t just about fast food workers, it’s about the childcare workers who build the foundation for our children’s future," she said. "It’s about the adjunct faculty who pave the way and show our children how to get ready for their professional careers."

Other low-wage workers told similar stories at an SEIU union rally in downtown Syracuse Wednesday.

Amy Loysen, a 29-year-old mother of two who works at a gas station, has struggled to move up.

"I have had my managers come up to me and offer me a position as a manager, but with the position I am in with two kids, they don’t know if I’m ready to take the position as manager because I don’t always have childcare when needed," she said.

Minimum wage advocates have had some success in recent years with a few national retailers upping base pay. Seattle enacted a $15 wage last year. But efforts to increase the federal level above $7.25 are stalled.

New York’s minimum wage will rise from $8.75 to $9 an hour starting next year. Efforts to raise it higher were part of budget negotiations this spring, but fell off the bargaining table.

Conservatives and many small businesses and farmers say a higher salary will only drive up prices and shrink the workforce.