Workers across the region who take home the smallest paychecks will have better prospects to feed their families and pay their bills. That’s thanks to the increase in the state’s minimum wage signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo yesterday at a Manhattan rally that included organizers of the Fight for 15 movement and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Sen. Bernie Sanders was not invited, though the issue has been a mainstay of his campaign.
The change won’t happen overnight. With yearly increments, Long Island and Westchester will see the minimum go from $9 now to $15 on Dec. 31, 2021. New York City reaches $15 on Dec. 31, 2018, for large businesses, and a year later for small ones. Upstate, where the economy is struggling, the top amount of $12.50 would be reached Dec. 31, 2020. Concerns expressed by some small-business owners are understandable. But there is an escape valve in three years to adjust the formula if the economy stalls.
The battle for a $15 minimum, once nearly impossible to imagine, got a burst of attention when some 200 fast-food workers walked off the job in New York City in 2012, saying something had to change. This progressive groundswell was taken up by Cuomo, a moderate Democrat, in addition to Clinton. The candidate, who backs a $12 federal minimum wage and local increases on top of that, praised Cuomo’s practical centrist work. At first, Cuomo wanted to unilaterally push through a minimum-wage increase for state employees and fast-food workers. The decision to include the legislature in the process allowed workers statewide to benefit.
Senate Republicans, many of whom faced considerable opposition in their home districts, did the right thing and voted to help the working poor. But demands for an increase would have flamed out without sustained pressure from groups concerned that rewards in our economy have become unbalanced. — The editorial board