Cuomo raises minimum wage to $15 for NY state university workers

Donald Trump: Leave minimum wage where it is
Donald Trump: Leave minimum wage where it is

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday the minimum wage paid to New York state university workers would be raised gradually to $15 an hour over the next few years.

The move is expected to raise the pay for more than 28,000 workers, including students in work-study programs.

It's the latest in Cuomo's push to make New York the first state in the nation to have a statewide $15 minimum wage, up from $9 currently.

"Today's minimum wage still leaves far too many people behind -- unacceptably condemning them to a life of poverty even while they work full-time," Cuomo said.

Last year, he made headlines by bypassing the state legislature to put in place a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers at large chains. He also mandated it for most state government workers.

Related: New York seals deal on $15 minimum fast food wage

Cuomo's goal now is to get lawmakers in Albany to sign on to a statewide minimum of $15. To assist in that effort he also announced Monday the launch of the Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice, named after his late father, who served as governor of the state for three terms.

Speaking at a rally of union workers, as well as state and federal officials, including U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, the governor noted that a statewide minimum of $15 could raise the pay for 3 million New Yorkers directly and indirectly.

To lawmakers who might vote against the idea, Cuomo warned that he would let their constituents know that "if you vote against [a $15 minimum wage] you vote against 3 million workers."

The presence of U.S. Labor Secretary Perez at the event underscored the Obama Administration's continued support for states and cities pursuing a higher local minimum wage.

The White House has not gotten much traction with Congress in its efforts to raise the federal minimum wage. It has backed an increase to $10.10 from the current level of $7.25, but there is also Democratic legislation to increase it to $12. Neither proposal is expected to go far this year.

Perez made an economic case at the rally for a higher minimum wage. "If you don't have money in your pocket you can't buy things. And if you can't buy things the economy suffers." And, he noted, employers may benefit because a higher wage can reduce worker attrition.

But those who oppose a minimum wage as high as $15 or even $12 contend that such a big increase could cost jobs and hurt smaller businesses with narrow profit margins.

"$15.00 per hour may work in Manhattan, but it will crush the small business, family farms and not-for-profits that define our Upstate economy," said Unshackle Upstate a New York business advocacy group.

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