August 2004

Minimum Wage Veto

From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Susan John • Chair, Labor Committee
What the experts are saying...

"Gov. George Pataki vetoed a bill yesterday that is the most important piece of legislation passed by New York’s Legislature so far this year. … Mr. Pataki said he wanted a federal minimum wage bill instead. But that might be a long wait. Legislators from both the Assembly and the Senate need to override the governor’s veto in the next few weeks."

   - Editorial, The New York Times,
July 30

"This is a sad day for all working men and women, not just those at the lower end of the pay scale. If we are to consider ourselves a progressive, enlightened society then we must protect the neediest among us. Unfortunately, Governor Pataki has chosen to turn his back on the hundreds of thousands of workers who simply scrape by to make ends meet."

   - Denis Hughes, President, New York State AFL-CIO

"Vetoing the minimum wage merely expands the range of people who can feel the Pataki lash. The reasons given in his veto message are laughable and often factually wrong."

   - Dan Cantor, Executive Director, Working Families Party

"Officials have to balance competing interests: The needs of low-wage workers versus what’s best for the economy. Right now that balance is tipped in the direction of the state’s 750,000 working poor, whose wages haven’t kept up with inflation. They need a raise."

   - Editorial, Newsday,
Aug. 2

"The far more effective way to prevail upon Congress to raise the minimum wage would be for the third-biggest state in the country to do so first."

   - Editorial, Albany Times Union
July 31

"Past experience proves minimum wage increases don’t lower employment among low-income families."

   - Amy Chasanov, Deputy Director of Policy, Economic Policy Institute

"This is a real punch in the gut to people who are doing the right thing, working hard to support their families and improve their lives. The governor likes to talk about opportunity and rewarding work, but with this veto he’s shown that he doesn’t believe in any of that. The message this veto sends is, ‘New York State to working poor: Drop dead."

   - Bertha Lewis, Co-chairwoman, Working Families Party

Governor’s veto a slap in the face to hard-working New Yorkers
Legislation would increase minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.15 per hour

The governor’s decision to veto bipartisan legislation raising the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.15 per hour destroys the bridge out of poverty that tens of thousands of New Yorkers are trying to cross. Essentially, the governor is telling those people to continue to work longer hours for less pay and less of a chance to build a better future for themselves and their families. What he’s done is robbed them of their dreams.

After years of pressure, the Senate finally agreed to join the Assembly in passing historic legislation to increase the state minimum wage to $6.00 per hour on January 1, 2005; $6.75 per hour on January 1, 2006; and $7.15 per hour on January 1, 2007.

Food service workers receiving tips would also receive yearly wage increases under the plan. The tip minimum wage would climb from the current $3.30 to $3.85 per hour on January 1, 2005; $4.35 on January 1, 2006; and $4.60 on January 1, 2007.

Governor’s lack of leadership

The governor claims that he believes in a higher minimum wage, but wants the federal government to implement it. It’s yet another example of the governor passing the buck and trying to get other people to do the job he was elected to do.

The truth is, the president and his administration have no plans to raise the minimum wage. Is the governor going to put real pressure on his political friends in Washington, or is it just more of his empty rhetoric?

New York’s workers deserve better

We should reward people who work full-time every day to support their family, but struggle to survive living paycheck to paycheck. It’s unacceptable that they work full-time only to collect wages that keep them in poverty.

While opponents of a minimum wage increase argue that a minimum wage increase only benefits teenagers, a study by the Economic Policy Institute found that 68 percent of the workers who would directly benefit from a wage increase are adults. In addition, women account for 60 percent of those earning less than $7.25 an hour, and of those, almost half have children to clothe and feed.

Something worth noting is that the governor – who earns $179,000 a year, or roughly $86 an hour – is closing the door of opportunity on someone making $5.15 an hour, or less than $11,000 a year.

Assembly leads the way to higher wages

For years, the Assembly has passed legislation raising the minimum wage. It’s a shame that we finally got the Senate to join us this year, only to watch the governor heartlessly veto the agreement. Fortunately, the process doesn’t end here. The Assembly plans to override the governor’s veto and we urge the Senate to do the same. The state has a moral responsibility to lift people out of poverty when we can. Not doing so is a betrayal of our obligation to them.

Visit comm/WAM/2004MinWage/ for more information on the state’s minimum wage.

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