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Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in Westbury, pushes to raise minimum wage


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo rallied union members and local officials Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, to support his fight for the $15 per hour wage. The governor's visit to the Yes We Can Community Center in Westbury was one of several stops he made in the New York metro area drumming up support. "This is the right fight," Cuomo said. "This is about fairness for all; opportunity for all." (Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely)

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo held a rally Tuesday in Westbury to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, arguing that the proposal is “about fundamental fairness” for hardworking New Yorkers.

Cuomo said too many low-income residents are forced to work multiple jobs to feed their families and keep the lights on.

“This is the right fight,” Cuomo told more than 200 union members and Democratic officials at the Yes We Can Community Center. “This is about fairness for all; opportunity for all.”

Cuomo started his Drive for $15 tour on Tuesday, traveling from Manhattan to the Bronx to Westbury in a recreational vehicle emblazoned with the slogan, “Fight for Worker Fairness.”

Cuomo’s proposal calls for raising the minimum wage incrementally from $9 per hour — a rate that went into effect last month — to $15 per hour. The $15 increase would be phased in earlier in New York City, on Dec. 31, 2018, while the hike would go into effect for the rest of the state on July 1, 2021.

Nearly 125,000 Long Islanders earn the minimum wage, according to the governor’s office.

A total of 2.3 million New Yorkers would earn higher wages under the plan, increasing spending by more than $15.7 billion across the state, Cuomo officials said.

Lisa Johnson, a home health care worker from Elmont, said she earns $10 per hour, and must work two additional jobs to support her four children. “I just want to be able to survive,” said Johnson. “I hardly have any time to sleep.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said a higher minimum wage would drive more revenue into the economy, allowing businesses to hire more employees. “That means it’s a win-win-win for all New Yorkers,” Bellone said.

Michael Saltsman, research director at the Washington, D.C.-based Employment Policies Institute, a conservative think tank, said many New York businesses already have had to slash their staffs and cut overtime because of past increases to the minimum wage.

“It’s unfortunate that the governor is focused more on his own political well-being than that of small business owners and less-skilled job seekers in the state,” Saltsman said in an interview.

The Democrat-led Assembly supports Cuomo’s proposal. State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) has said he’s open to discussions about raising the minimum wage, but has expressed concern about the impact on small businesses, and wants Cuomo to do more to offset the costs..

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