Pushing for a cost-of-living adjustment for human services workers was the subject of a rally at the New York state Capitol on Monday.

Not only that, but also at hand was the urge to form a panel that would ensure wages not be allowed to slump to levels that have brought groups out multiple times already this session.

Michelle Jackson, executive director of the Human Services Council, said human services workers touch all aspects of life in New York.

“From running senior centers, to daycare to after-school programs, mental health services, developmental disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, there’s over 800,000 of these workers across the state,” she said.

Jackson said though that low wages make it increasingly difficult for those in the field, telling Spectrum News 1 that until just a few years ago, there hadn’t been a cost-of-living adjustment in 15 years.

That's more than a decade of potential gains that these workers won’t see.

“We would have seen probably $10-15,000 more in the pockets of human services workers,” she said.

What they are rallying for is a 3.2% increase to keep up with inflation for workers who, in many cases, actually work for nonprofits that contract with the state, meaning their executive directors’ hands are tied by what the state will pay for wages.

“They really set and pay the salaries of human services workers at nonprofits, so if they’re not doing COLAs [cost-of-living adjustments] and also these contracts can last for 10 years or more, they are starting contracts where they think, for example, a social worker should make $40,000 a year in New York,” she said. “That’s a master's level education.”

A COLA increase is a top priority of state Assemblymember Harry Bronson, chair of the Assembly Labor Committee.

“We need to increase it so they don’t have to work second jobs and third jobs so they can provide for their families,” he said.

That said, Jackson emphasized that while a step in the right direction, upping wages by COLA is not the end goal.

Instead, she said a wage board must be established to regulate pay.

“COLA helps, but it doesn’t get people the equitable wages that we need, so we really need the state agencies to work with us and that’s what a wage board would do. We could ask why are wages so low and how can we stop it from happening again through policy or legislation,” she said.

Assembly Republicans indicated Monday that they also are supportive of the effort.