New York City Mayor Pushes for $15 Minimum Wage

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New York City Mayor Pushes for $15 Minimum Wage

Nina Liss-Schultz

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) at Tuesday's State of the City address pledged to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) at Tuesday’s State of the City address pledged to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019.

“Nothing does more to address income equality than actually raising people’s incomes,” de Blasio said. “There’s one critical step that could do so much good. Raising the minimum wage.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in January announced a plan to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour in New York City and to $10.50 an hour in the rest of the state by 2016. But de Blasio said the governor’s “proposal simply doesn’t do enough to help New York City.”

The plan laid out by the mayor would increase the minimum wage to more than $13 an hour in 2016 and to $15 an hour by 2019. The state in 2013 approved a three-year proposal to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016.

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New York City’s current minimum wage is $8.75 an hour.

Twenty states saw wage floor raises on the first day of 2015, either due to new laws or planned increases from inflation indexing. Campaigns to raise workers’ wages have taken off across the countryeven in traditionally conservative states—with a $15 minimum wage being the rallying cry of many of them.

Last June, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making it the first city to do so. Other cities have followed suit.

In November, San Francisco voters approved a ballot initiative to increase the wage floor to $12.25 this March, and eventually to $15 an hour, while Oakland passed a similar initiative. Chicago, Washington, D.C., and San Diego have also approved minimum wage increases.

Hundreds of workers in January rallied at the Oregon State Capitol, calling for a $15 state minimum wage in part to save the state money as corporations and companies fail to pay a living wage.

Oregon taxpayers pay about $1.7 billion annually to “subsidize low-income wages, along with irregular work schedules and inadequate benefits,” Justin Norton-Kertson, a member of the activist group 15 Now Oregon, said in an interview with the Statesman Journal.

A raise in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, as has been proposed by Congressional Democrats but blocked by Republicans, would allow almost two million people to get off of public assistance and save the federal government $7.6 billion annually, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute.

The fight for increased wages has also been taken up nationally by fast-food and retail workers, many of whom face poverty and hunger as company profits soar.