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Mayor De Blasio Joins Statewide $15 Minimum Wage Fight

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New York Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all city workers Wednesday.

The plan is expected to impact about 50,000 workers across the city. The mayor will work with public sector unions to negotiate the wage increase into the next round of labor contracts. The increase will take effect in 2018 when the current contracts expire.

“We know that nothing will do more to lift up working families and move our economy forward than raising wages — and the city is leading by example by doing just that for 50,000 New Yorkers,” de Blasio told the New York Daily News. “From pre-K and affordable housing, to paid sick and parental leave, we’re taking real action for working New Yorkers.”

The mayor’s office estimates the plan will cost city taxpayers an additional $36 million. The current union contracts cover 20,000 city workers. An additional 30,000 city contractors will also have their base wage increased to $15 an hour by 2018. City workers already make at least $11.79 an hour while contractors make around $11.50 an hour.

De Blasio already voiced his support for the push to enact the policy statewide. The plan allows him to implement the $15 minimum wage where he has unilateral control. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo deployed a similar tactic during his statewide minimum wage push.

Cuomo unilaterally raised wages for those working in the fast-food industry, state university workers and state employees. He also introduced a proposal Sept. 10 that would gradually bring the minimum wage to $15 throughout the state by 2021. Unlike industry specific minimum wages, however, a statewide increase will need approval by the legislature. Republicans have a majority in the state Senate.

The minimum wage push has prompted adamant debate. Critics argue many businesses don’t have the profits to handle such an increase. Such businesses have few options to offset the added cost of labor besides increasing prices, hiring less workers or even laying employees off. In some cases the businesses may have to close.

Seattle became the first to pass a $15 minimum wage back in June 2014. Some businesses within the city have already reported problems because of the increase. San Francisco businesses like Abbot’s Cellar, Luna Park and Source were also forced to close after the city passed its own $15 minimum wage. Borderlands Books was saved from going out of business by using a customer sponsorship fundraiser.

While critics warn of job loss and economic stress, supporters 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. The governor’s office claims approximately 10,000 state employees will be benefited.

New York residents 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.

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