Democratic state lawmakers and labor unions on Thursday unveiled a new push to increase New York state's minimum wage in the coming years, with the goal of reaching more than $20 in New York City by 2025.
The effort, backed by state Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, is also supported by 32BJ SEIU, a prominent and politically active labor union.
Lawmakers are also seeking increases in the minimum hourly pay in counties north of Westchester, with the goal of reaching $14.20 on Jan. 1, 2023, and eventually reaching $15.75 by 2025. On Long Island and in Westchester County, the minimum wage would reach $17.95 by 2025.
Future increases would be set to the consumer price index under the proposal. Lawmakers are concluding the final weeks of the legislative session, which is scheduled to wrap up on June 2.
The proposal is being made after a sustained fight in 2016 to set New York's minimum wage at $15 an hour. Ultimately, lawmakers and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to a phase-in schedule that ended in 2021 and was done on a regional basis.
The upstate minimum wage is currently set at $13.20, and is subject to change by a wage board at the state Department of Labor. The minimum wage in the rest of the state stands at $15 an hour.
“Now, more than two years into a pandemic-related economic crisis, rent, inflation, the cost of gas and groceries, and billionaires’ wealth have all gone up," said Ramos, the chair of the Senate Labor Committee. "The only thing that hasn’t kept pace is our wages. Pegging the minimum wage to inflation and productivity will put money back in working people’s pockets, in turn making us more resilient to fits and starts in the economy. New Yorkers need a raise, and they need it now."
Inflation has sharply increased in the last several months, a complication of the pandemic, and will likely be an argument for business organizations in opposing the change. But the lawmakers who support raising the wage once again pointed to the high cost of goods as a reason for increasing the wage.
“For many New York workers, the minimum wage has been capped at $15 an hour since the end of 2018 and – as prices have gone up with inflation – the economic squeeze impacting working families has worsened,” said Joyner, who leads the Assembly Labor panel. “As a result, New York’s low-income workers have been increasingly trapped in a cycle that pushes them further down the economic ladder and into poverty. New York’s low-income workers need and deserve a minimum wage that protects them against the ravages of inflation – it is long overdue.”