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Cuomo Announces $15 an hour minimum wage phase in for state workers

Karen DeWitt


Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he is raising the minimum wage for state workers to $15 an hour.  That did not stop advocates from protesting at the Dunkin' Donuts at the state Capitol, saying the governor’s recently phased in wage increase for fast food workers is too slow.

Cuomo, at a union rally in New York City, announced he will raise the minimum wage for state workers to  $15 an hour by 2018 in New York City and 2021 in the rest of the state.

“We are going to lead by example,” Cuomo said. “We’re going to establish a public sector minimum wage and we’re going to start in our own house.”

The act makes New York the first state in the nation to eventually pay its minimum wage public workers $15 an hour.It affects around 10,000 state workers, including custodial staff and office clerks.

Meanwhile, demonstrators targeted the Dunkin' Donuts on the first floor of the state Capitol even though Cuomo already convened a special wage board to phase in a $15 an hour rate for fast food workers. But, it won’t be fully implemented in New York City by 2018 and upstate by 2021. Mark Emanatian, with Citizen Action, said that’s too long.

“These great big huge corporations that are making millions and in some cases billions of dollars can afford to pay a living wage,” he said.

Travill Caruth, who works at Burger King and spoke as part of rally on the Capitol’s ornate red granite million dollar staircase, said it’s not soon enough for him. He said he tries to support himself and his wife on $8.85 cents an hour.

“She’s epileptic and our expenses are not covered,” Cartuh said.

Down the hall from the protesters, Republicans who rule the state Senate were reconvening for a pre- session strategy meeting. GOP leader John Flanagan reacted to Cuomo’s plan to submit legislation to raise the minimum wage for all workers in the state when the new session starts in January.

The Republican leader did not rule out a phased in $15 an hour minimum wage, but said several steps have to be taken first.

“I’m open to discussions,” Flanagan said. “I’m not going to commit to anything one way or the other.”

Flanagan said he expects extensive discussions among Republicans and even public hearings.

“I have every expectation that we’ll come to, whatever it may be, some kind of compromise,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan said he’s not happy with Cuomo’s unilateral action to use a wage board to raise fast food workers’ wages, without any input from the legislature, calling it executive overreach. 

Cuomo has proposed adding some tax breaks for small businesses to better afford the wage increase.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.