Saturday, September 12, 2015

Governor Cuomo Endorses $15 an Hour Minimum Wage and Marches in Labor Parade

Governor Andrew Cuomo marching in Labor parade with SEIU
Governor Andrew Cuomo marching in Labor parade with SEIU
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced his support to increase the minimum wage in New York State to $15 an hour, with Vice President Joe Biden.

Today he is marching in today’s New York City Labor parade with the support of the many labor unions of New York. He personally marched with SEIU 1199, a union of health care workers.

“If you work full time you shouldn’t have to live in poverty-plan and simple,” Cuomo declared on Thursday. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour will add fairness to our economy and bring dignity and respect to 2.2 million people, many of whom have been forced to live in poverty for too long.”

Through a Wage Board he created, Cuomo signed an executive order that raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour for fast food workers and will push for legislation that enables the same for all wage earners gradually.

While in recent years many state have raised their minimum wage, New York would be the first state to increase it to $15 an hour. The city of Seattle passed a law earlier this year raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021.

“There used to be a basic bargain in America…If you worked hard and played by the rules, you got to share in the nation’s prosperity. But over the last 20 to 30 years, that promise has been broken,” said Vice President Biden.
A minimum wage increase is needed immediately.

While the minimum wage in New York is $8.75, a dollar more than the national level, it’s insufficient to live on in New York City, the most expensive city in the U.S.

At the ceremony, it was argued that the government subsidizes corporations by providing benefits to wage earners that earn the minimum wage.

Don’t think that a minimum wage increase won’t affect middle class wage earners. A rising tide lifts all boats!

Cuomo’s sudden endorsement of the minimum wage reflects the growth of the push by progressives, a group with which Cuomo has had a fraught relationship.

Cuomo and progressives

As the son of former Governor Mario Cuomo, many have called Andrew far more moderate.
Cuomo has always been a centrist. He became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Clinton. Clinton led efforts to moderate Democrats to appeal to undecided voters who voted for Republicans or stayed home.

Since taking office in 2011, Cuomo has been reluctant to increase the income tax on wealthy New Yorkers, a major progressive goal. He argued it would contribute to the acceleration of citizens leaving the state, a problem it has been dealing with for decades.

In his efforts to balance the New York state budget, Cuomo also wanted concessions from the government unions, much to their chagrin. Unions in New York exert significant influence on state politics. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was always cited as a champion of the teacher’s unions, which contributed to his tenure in power.

Antagonism between Cuomo and progressives reached a high point last year when Zephyr Teachout, a progressive college professor, ran a primary campaign against Cuomo and received 35 percent. Thirty-five percent is a good showing for Teachout, given her few advantages.

New York politics aren’t for the weak of heart

The New York State Legislative was gridlocked for years, unable to approve a budget on time nor pass major legislation. New York is famously governed by the “three men in a room”: the Governor, the State Senate President, and the Speaker of the Assembly.

Cuomo has been able to persuade the other two men in the room to support his initiatives far more than his predecessors. While the Speaker as a Democrat was a natural ally, the State Senate President wasn’t.

The State Senate has many conservatives who draw their support from New York City’s wealthy suburbs and the libertarian, rural parts of Upstate New York.

Cuomo took the initiative to pass gay marriage legislation in 2011 soon after becoming governor and rammed through gun control legislation after Sandy Hook in 2012.

But Andrew Cuomo has won major victories for social issues and the New York economy. Plus, he hasn’t lost a major fight with the legislature. So it’s highly likely this will pass. Though with the restaurant industry and organized business against it, the fight won’t be easy.