State Senator David Carlucci, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, Chairman of the Rockland County Working Families Party Bob Milone and 12-year-old girl scout Hannah Buckler spoke out in favor of raising New York’s minimum wage Friday afternoon.
The group met at the local Communication Workers of America chapter in New City to speak in favor of a bill that would raise New York’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour.
“The minimum wage is something that hasn’t increased by more than a dime in the last five years,” Carlucci said. “Right now, at $7.25 an hour, we have the same minimum wage right here in Rockland and the Hudson Valley that wage-earners are earning in Oklahoma and West Virginia, where the cost of living is dramatically less expensive.”
Carlucci added that at the current minimum wage, those working 40 hours a week are making $290, and those who work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks without taking an hour off make $15,080 before taxes.
“That’s frankly unacceptable because as everybody knows, in New York State and especially here in Rockland County, the cost of living is so high,” Zebrowski said. “We need to afford working families here in New York the ability to raise their families, the abilities to pay rent, the abilities to put food on the table and afford prescription drugs and healthcare.”
He added that 18 other states have higher minimum wages than New York.
The bill passed through the state Assembly earlier this year, but was shot down in the State Senate. Carlucci said he wants to see the bill pass as the first thing the State Senate does when it returns to session next year.
“Importantly, in the bill in the Assembly that passed, it starts to index it to inflation, so we won’t have to go year after year and wage this battle,” Zebrowski said.
Buckler, of New City, has taken on advocacy for higher minimum wages as . Buckler started out her project looking into volunteering at soup kitchens, which she’s done multiple times already and will continue doing, which led her and her parents to looking into what causes people to need soup kitchens. One big reason is poverty, which led them to look into the state’s minimum wage.
“Many New Yorkers support an increase in the New York State minimum wage, but some feel it would cause job loss and problems for small businesses,” Buckler said. “However, an increase in minimum wage could actually lead to a boost in our economy because people living on minimum wage would have more to spend.”
Buckler spread the word about the bill that didn’t end up passing earlier in the year, and was invited to Albany to speak on the issue by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who proposed the bill.
“Our current minimum wage is not cutting it,” she said. “I am hopeful that the minimum wage will be raised.”
Milone talked about the need to raise minimum wage not just to help out workers, but to help New York return to its place as a leader in the nation.
“We in New York need to do better. There was a time when New York was a leader when it came to workers’ rights and protections. We are now the followers. It is time for New York to lead again,” he said. “It’s time for New York to raise the wage for the working poor of New York. We’ll be raising the wage of many workers in the service industries that work at department stores, restaurants and also take care of our elderly.”