Council Members Rally for Higher NYC Minimum Wage

Melissa Mark-Viverito and other advocates rallying earlier today.

Melissa Mark-Viverito and other advocates rallying earlier today. (Photo: Kelly Weill)

The days after the mayor releases his preliminary budget are usually filled with protests by advocates stomping their feet, decrying cuts to favored programs on the steps of City Hall.

But today, the labor groups, workers, and council members rallying outside City Hall were there to hail Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call during his State of the City speech for an increase in the minimum wage.

The city’s political heavyweights, including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Comptroller Scott Stringer, backed by hundreds of low-wage workers, showed up in force to urge Albany lawmakers to grant the city permission to establish its own minimum wage, independent of state wage laws.

“I urge the state legislature to allow New York City to set its own minimum wage and help raise pay for millions of New Yorkers,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said.

Ms. Mark-Viverito and her allies have an uphill fight, however. Gov. Andrew Cuomo already seemed to dismiss the idea of a city-based minimum wage hike in a recent interview, and the State Senate, which is partially controlled by Republicans, has show resistance, too. Critics also point to the fact that the state legislature moved to raise the minimum wage last year–though not by as much as advocates at today’s rally pushed for.

In one of the nation’s most expensive cities, the advocates argued $8-per-hour still constitutes a poverty-level wage. Instead, the assembled officials and workers advocated for an adjustable minimum wage that would allow municipalities to raise their rates in accordance with living expenses.

“Given the high cost of living in the city, the City Council must have the ability to change the minimum wage to reflect the reality,” Ms. James said. “Should a legislator in Oswego tell us how to live? Should a legislator in Onondaga tell us what our minimum wage should be?”

Council lawmakers plan to pass a resolution in the Council urging their Albany counterparts to heed their pleas and pass the “RaiseUpNY” bill in the State Senate and Assembly.

The law, they said, would help workers like Michael Carey, security staffers at JFK airport, who described how hard it was to make ends meet. A Jamaican immigrant, Mr. Carey said he has worked at JFK airport for five years at $8 per hour with no raise.

“Today is Valentine’s Day and I can’t buy my wife a Valentine’s present,” he bemoaned.