NEW YORK, N.Y. – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined a throng of union workers and other supporters of a $15 minimum wage in lower Manhattan on Tuesday and formally announced he would be using his executive authority to make sure it went up for at least one group of workers — state employees.
“This issue is very simple,” he told the crowd, whose cheering and enthusiasm was in no way diminished by being outside in cold, damp weather. “This is about basic fairness and basic justice.”
Cuomo’s announcement came on a day of nationwide protests and rallies, as fast-food workers and other low-wage workers called for the $15 wage and for the right to unionize. They also made it clear that their political support in next year’s elections depended on candidates taking on their issues.
Cuomo said New York would “lead by example” and establish a public-sector minimum wage. The increase will impact about 10,000 state workers, about 1,000 in New York City and the rest upstate. The workers in the city include office assistants, custodial workers and lifeguards.
There are 277,622 active employees on the state payroll.
The increase will be phased in over time, with city workers seeing the increase to $15 by the end of 2018 and upstate workers getting there by July 2021. That’s a similar timeline to the other group Cuomo has overseen a wage increase for — chain fast-food workers. A state wage board recently approved that increase, another effort that like Tuesday’s announcement didn’t require approval from the state Legislature.
Asked about that piecemeal approach, Cuomo said, “There’s nothing that a substitute for passing a law that affects everyone everywhere, there’s no doubt about that.”
The Democratic governor has called for a $15 basic minimum across all industries, which state Senate Republicans oppose. New York’s minimum wage is now $8.75 and is set to rise to $9 at year’s end.
In lower Manhattan, those in the crowd carried signs saying, “Lift all boats, not just yachts,” and also referenced other issues, like immigration reform and police shootings.
Lisa Johnson, 45, a Queens resident who works as a home care aide, said going from the $10 an hour she makes now to $15 would mean she wouldn’t have to work the two jobs she has now and could spend more time with her children. She was hopeful that it would happen.
“If we continue to step out and support each other, we’re going to get ours,” she said.
Associated Press writer Michael Virtanen contributed to this report from Albany.