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The Fight For $20 Comes To New York

New York made history with its fight for a $15 minimum wage. But workers say that's now unlivable.

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Jessica Ramos: If you want people to vote blue, you have to help people put bread on the table.

[News clip]: State senator Jessica Ramos is reintroducing legislation in Albany to raise the minimum wage in New York.

[News clip]: All of this comes as the cost to live in New York just continues to rise.

Kim Allen: I have nothing to show for working all those years. Because the wages is too small. You have a family to take care of. You have yourself to take care of. And it’s not enough.

Jessica Ramos: The Democratic party should be fighting for working class New Yorkers and raising the minimum wage. I’m hoping that governor Hochul understands the duress that New Yorkers have been living under for the past few years. Especially as working class voters helped her get elected to office for the first time, that she sees our plight and responds by doing what’s right.

NEW YORKERS ARE FIGHTING TO RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE TO OVER $20 BY 2026

Jessica Ramos: The minimum wage in New York state has been at 15 dollars now for 4 years. It was 10 years ago that the fight for 15 was launched. Fast food workers were starting to organize across the city.

[News clip]: The fight for 15 movement.

[News clip]: The fight for 15.

[News clip]: It’s remarkable that this movement started with a single strike of a bunch of Mcdonalds workers in NYC, and its spread across the country.

Jessica Ramos: It really did spring the rest of the country into action. It took 6 years, of rallying, of press conferences, for then governor Cuomo to finally enact a $15 minimum wage.

BUT TODAY, THAT MINIMUM WAGE BUYS 15% LESS THAN IT DID IN 2018, LEAVING MILLIONS OF NEW YORKERS UNABLE TO AFFORD BASIC NECESSITIES

Lolli Edinger: My name is Lolli Edinger, I’m a homecare worker for almost 5 years now. In my area, the minimum wage is 13.20. I now make 2 dollars more than that. And…it’s not enough [laughs]. 46% of the companies that hire home care workers can’t find enough staff; it means people that need the staff are going without. 

I have a friend who is in a power wheelchair. She has gone full days where she’s stayed in her wheelchair, with no one to get her out to use the bathroom. You can’t get to the doctor’s office. It’s a snowball effect. Once we don’t have enough care, everything snowballs.

THE “RAISE THE WAGE ACT” WOULD INCREASE THE MINIMUM WAGE TO $21.25 IN THE CITY AND SURROUNDING SUBURBS AND $20 IN THE REST OF THE STATE.

Jessica Ramos: What we’re proposing is that we raise the minimum wage in New York once again, put us on a path to $21.25, at which point we would be indexing the minimum wage to inflation, meaning that people would get annual cost of living increases without having to go back to years long fights.

Raising the minimum wage is one of the most popular ideas in NY state right now! Most popular in Hudson Valley. It is felt in every single corner of the state. 

That “raising the minimum wage will hurt businesses”, it’s trite. We hear this every time there’s public discourse about raising the minimum wage. And yet when I talk to small businesses in the state, they realize that indexing the minimum wage is helpful to them.

Maura Keaney: I hope that business will speak out, as Amalgamated bank is, in support of the minimum wage increase. In 2019, Amalgamated Bank increased its minimum wage to 20/hr. That was after an increase to 15/hr during the fight for 15 campaign.

We think it’s the right thing to do. We also think that it’s good business. Recruiting, retaining talent means being a good employer, and part of being a good employer is making sure our employees are making wages that they can sustain their families on.

Lolli Edinger: If that rate was up to the 21 and change, it would allow them to actually hire qualified people, you could actually say “Hey look, this is someone who loves their job, and I can actually pay them a living wage”. 

Maura Keaney: Higher minimum wages are good for the economy. Workers who are making higher minimum wages are also consumers. Those workers are not gonna put that money away in an offshore savings account in switzerland. They’re gonna use it to buy their kid a new backpack. When people are doing well, businesses do well.

Jessica Ramos: We want Governor Hochul to understand that doing this as soon as possible, passing it, signing it, enacting it, will actually jumpstart our economy, and is the best possible way to fight the recession that we’re expecting next year. We are seeing a big coalition come together.

Tafador Sourov: We are out here today, because solidarity is the most important word in the language of the working class. We are sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. Our families work in retail, in warehouses, as home health aids, as domestic workers, and they need some relief.

Antonio Rosario: Corporations like Amazon, Chipotle, UPS, all these companies are making record profits off the back of the workers.

Jumaane Williams: They have the wealth they have because he can’t feed his family. Because you can’t find a place to live. We say no more to everyone who’s gonna get wealthy off the backs of people who helped you get there. 

Charles Khan: Since the Fight for 15, there’s been 150 billion dollars in additional wages that have gone to working people across the country. Governor Hochul had a pretty poor showing at the ballot. And I think it sent a pretty clear message that New York State government needs to do a better job of doing things that people want.

Jessica Ramos: When we raise the minimum wage here in NY state, 2 million New Yorkers are immediately going to benefit.

Lolli Edinger: If I knew that they supported and valued my job enough to raise minimum wage, absolutely it would make me appreciate them more and vote for them.

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