Members of the Black, Puerto Rican and Asian legislative caucus called Tuesday for a minimum wage increase, putting pressure on Senate Republicans to support the controversial measure.
Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Brooklyn Democrat who is chairman of the caucus, stressed that the group was behind Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for an hourly wage of $8.75, up from the current $7.25. But lawmakers who spoke during the group’s news conference Tuesday presented various proposals, including one that would establish an $11.15 wage and another that would raise the wage to $8.50 next year and $9.25 the following year.
All of the Democrats’ proposals included indexing, which would allow the minimum wage to increase each year based on inflation and other economic conditions.
Assemblymembers and Senators at the event argued that increasing the minimum wage is not only the right thing to do for New Yorkers living in poverty but also help stimulate the economy.
“This is undoubtedly one of the most important pieces of legislation that we are going to work on, because so many lives are at stake,” Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson, D-Bronx, said at the news conference. “Many families are looking for their leaders in the Capitol to make a difference in their everyday life. And that is what raising the minimum wage will do.”
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, said she knows people who work more than one job because a full-time minimum wage salary is not enough to support a family.
“Now they don’t mind to struggle, because they know what the have to do,” she said. “But why should we not make it easier for them? Why should not allow a mother to work one job and spend more time with her children, doing homework and those sorts of things?”
Wright said he has spoken with Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, about the minimum wage proposal. The IDC has said they support increasing the wage and plan to hold their own news conference later Tuesday.
Klein’s breakaway group partnered with the Senate Republicans to control the chamber. He and Republican Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, switch off as temporary Senate president.
Republicans have opposed raising the wage, arguing the increased costs to business owners would lead to fewer jobs.
“Just have to pick the right week to pass it,” Camara joked at the conference, suggesting that the bill might not pass when Skelos is leading the chamber.
“Yeah, it can’t be an even week—gotta be an odd week,” Wright added, laughing.