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Another Voice: Minimum wage hike would benefit working families

By Michael Kink

Fast-food workers have been leading an energetic and successful national movement to improve pay and working conditions for millions of Americans.

After the latest round of strikes in New York and around the nation on April 15, more and more Americans are backing the “Fight for $15” – and two top leaders of state government have joined in.

Earlier this month, Speaker Carl Heastie and the State Assembly passed a strong statewide minimum wage increase, with a higher wage for New York City and surrounding suburbs.

And Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he would convene a wage board to examine a pay increase for fast-food workers, with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown representing the public during the deliberations.

If you care about fighting poverty, reviving our economy and helping working families, it’s important to support both a strong ruling by the wage board and passage of a broad, powerful minimum wage bill – with an ultimate goal of getting all New York workers at least $15 per hour in pay.

Three million New Yorkers make less than $15 per hour – most of them adults, women and folks supporting families.

A wage board that gets fast-food pay to $15 per hour would lift thousands of families out of poverty.

And we need a broad minimum wage increase for all sectors of the economy to ensure a livable wage, help families and boost our economy.

The Assembly bill would raise the minimum wage in New York City and surrounding suburbs to $15 an hour by late 2018, statewide to $12.60 by late 2016 and add annual cost-of-living indexing adjustments starting in 2017.

This legislation demonstrates national leadership, and it’s in line with what other states and cities are proposing or enacting: California, Washington, Maine and Colorado are all proposing $12-$13 per hour minimum wages or higher, and Seattle and San Francisco are already at $15 per hour.

Both Cuomo and Heastie are setting the stage for economic renewal from the bottom up. But the scandal-plagued GOP State Senate majority has been blocking a broad increase.

Some claim that minimum wage increases hurt small businesses, but it’s just not true: San Francisco and Seattle have the highest minimum wages in the country, and they also have the fastest rates of small business growth.

Lack of wage growth is the biggest problem in the New York economy. Cuomo and Heastie have demonstrated real leadership and real courage to address this problem directly.

Now it’s time for new Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to show the same resolve – let’s all join the “Fight for $15” together.

Michael Kink is executive director of the Strong Economy For All Coalition.