ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is giving a raise to thousands of state workers with a decision to increase the minimum wage to $15 for government workers in the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
The pay increases will not be submitted to the State Legislature for its approval, and they won’t be fully effective for some upstate workers until 2021 – meaning the action could be undone by some future governor if Cuomo is not in office at that point.
The increased hourly rate would appear to heavily affect the state’s part-time workforce, such as lifeguards and other seasonal workers at state parks, but it also will affect food service employees, clerical workers and a variety of blue-collar, health care posts that one state workers union said involves mostly entry-level government jobs.
About 10,000 state workers make under $15 per hour now, the administration said. About 9,000 of those are workers employed outside New York City.
The universe of the 10,000 affected employees is relatively small. The state comptroller’s office puts the total number of active employees on the New York State payroll system, which includes those taking paid or unpaid leave, at 277,622 full- and part-time workers. The Cuomo administration was unable to say which state agencies would be most affected by the wage hike.
The Cuomo administration estimated the higher wages will cost the state budget $20 million annually when the increase is fully implemented in 2021.
The hike comes several months after Cuomo, during this year’s legislative session, described as a “non-starter” an effort to raise the state’s minimum wage to $13 per hour. The governor has since stepped up his push for the $15 level, and the state workers’ increase comes as the administration starts contract talks with the Civil Service Employees Association, the largest government workers union whose collective bargaining agreement ends next March 31. An administration official said the announcement of the $15 minimum wage is to be a factor in those talks.
CSEA President Danny Donohue, a frequent Cuomo critic over the years, on Tuesday said Cuomo was showing “bold leadership” with the wage hike for lower-paid, hourly workers.
Cuomo Tuesday evening held a rally in Manhattan to promote the minimum wage hike for state workers and a broader, statewide for all public and private employers. “This is about basic fairness and justice,” Cuomo said. “We’re going to lead by example. ... We’re going to start in our own house.”
The increase follows a Cuomo-appointed panel’s move to unilaterally raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 per hour by 2018 in New York City and by 2021 upstate.
The administration’s move to increase wages for fast food workers was criticized Tuesday by State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, as an “executive overreach” because it did not involve legislative approval.
The State Senate GOP has blocked efforts that were led first by Assembly Democrats, and now Cuomo, to raise the overall state minimum wage to $15 per hour. Flanagan, after meeting with his fellow Republicans in a closed-door session, called it “fundamentally flawed” that senators are being criticized when Cuomo has not introduced a $15-per-hour wage bill. . “I’m not going to commit to anything one way or the other,” Flanagan said.
Business groups, from farmers to restaurant owners, have recently begun a campaign to push back against the wage hike, saying it would kill jobs. Supporters of the hike dismiss these claims, and say a wage hike would be good for the economy and lift thousands from poverty-touching salary levels.
New York’s current minimum wage is $8.75.