Employment experts are saying New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo may face a tough uphill battle as he looks to institute a statewide $15 minimum wage, according to reports Monday.
Currently the state minimum wage is $8.75 an hour. The proposed increase will gradually bring the minimum wage to $15 in New York City by 2018 and statewide by 2021. Amy Habib Rittling, who deals with labor policy at the law firm Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, notes Cuomo should prepare himself for what is sure to be a tough fight.
“I think there’s still going to be an uphill battle for him to get this minimum wage passed across the state,” Rittling told The Business Journals. “And frankly, that is probably what drove his end-run around the Legislature when they did the fast-food increase.”
Back in July the state commission on labor approved a plan to raise wages for fast-food workers to $15 an hour. The commission allows for industry specific minimum wages. To get a statewide minimum wage, however, Cuomo will need approval by the state legislature. Republicans, who tend to oppose the $15 minimum wage, hold a majority in the state Senate.
“It may be more difficult than it was to increase the minimum wage for the fast-food industry, which they did with a method that, to some extent, was a loophole in the law that they cannot necessarily do across the board for everybody,” Robert Weissflach, leader of labor and employment practices at law firm Harter Secrest & Emery, also noted to The Business Journals.
“I think the chances of that happening across the board are less likely, because of the requirement of the Legislature’s approval,” Todd Shinaman, counsel for labor and employment at law firm Nixon Peabody, added. “[The governor] can’t just do it on his own, which is the big difference.”
Cuomo first announced the increase Sept. 10. If successful, New York could become the first state with a $15 minimum wage. He was joined by Vice President Joe Biden during his announcement. Florida and Massachusetts are also considering increasing their minimum wage to $15.
Each side is already mounting an offensive. Supporters argue the $15 minimum wage will help the poor by allowing them to more easily afford basic necessities while critics say it may actually hurt the poor by limiting job opportunities. Even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agrees any increase of the minimum wage will likely result in at least some job loss.
Nationwide, the union-backed groups Fight for $15 has led much of the effort. It has utilized media marketing campaigns and rallies. It is highly influenced and funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The SEIU Local 1199 has launched a television spot in July supporting the statewide increase.
Additionally, rumors began circulating Oct. 7 that Cuomo plans to call a special session in December to force through the $15 minimum wage. The session would be held before the election to help get some Republican approval. Cuomo denied the claims after business groups began voicing their concerns.
On the other side of the debate, the Conservative Party of New York State has launched an online petition. The hope is to get the attention of the Republican majority in the state Senate. The group fears the majority is no guarantee and that state residents must be opposed for lawmakers to follow.
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