NY Unions Launch ‘Economic Justice’ Campaign In State Where Everyone Already Agrees

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New York labor unions from across the state launched a campaign Monday to build on the growing momentum $15 minimum wage supporters have already gained in the state.

The Mario Cuomo Campaign For Economic Justice plans to utilize digital technologies to better mobilize supporters. The campaign hopes to rally supporters with online messaging and with a text alert system. It has also started an online petition. George Gresham, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1199, will serve as the campaign chairman.

“It is a moral imperative that we raise the minimum wage to $15 for all working New Yorkers,” Gresham says in a statement. “If you work hard, play by the rules and contribute to society you should be able to live with dignity and build a better life for your children.”

New York already overwhelmingly supports the $15 minimum wage. A full 62 percent of state voters agree with the policy, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. The big issue, however, is Republicans who hold a majority in the state Senate. Nevertheless, Democratic leadership is adamantly behind the policy push.

“New York needs to lead on economic justice,” New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says. “We know how hard it can be to get by in our state, and that’s why we must do everything we can to ensure that a full day’s work results in a livable wage.”

Labor unions are not new to the minimum wage debate. The Local 1199 has launched media marketing campaigns already in support of the statewide increase. The United Food and Commercial Workers and the AFL-CIO have also both worked for years across the country in support of the policy. Additionally, the union-backed Fight for $15 movement has been at the forefront of the nationwide fight.

The campaign was launched during a $15 minimum wage rally in Manhattan. At the event Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an executive order to raise the minimum wage for state university workers. The campaign is named in honor of his father who was also the governor of New York.

Cuomo wants to eventually implement a $15 minimum wage across the state. The governor introduced a proposal Sept. 10 which could gradually bring the state minimum wage to $15 by 2021 if passed by the legislature. He has also been able to implement the policy without legislative approval in particular sectors. Industry specific minimum wages do not need legislative approval. Cuomo has been able to enacted a $15 minimum wage for fast-food and some state workers.

At the moment no state has enacted a $15 minimum wage, but some cities have. Seattle led the way in passing the $15 minimum wage back in June 2014. San Francisco and Los Angeles followed not long after.

Critics argue many businesses just don’t have the profits to handle such an increase. Supporters, though say the $15 minimum wage will help the poor by allowing them to more easily afford basic necessities. The increased spending would then in turn stimulate economic activity.

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