Labor unions and other progressive groups are renewing a campaign to allow cities to set its own minimum wage. Time Warner Cable News reporter Zack Fink filed the following report.
This week, advocates for a group called Raise Up New York urged lawmakers in Albany to reconsider its minimum wage policy.
"It's a movement and a coalition statewide to empower women and help raise minimum wages across different localities and municipalities," said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic of Queens.
With a focus from progressive groups lately on the issue of inequality, not just in New York but across the country, advocates for a higher minimum wage say poor pay disproportionately affects women.
"The reality is, is that nationally, two-thirds of the low-wage workers, minimum-wage workers, are women," said Andrea Stewart-Cousins, leader of the state Senate's Democratic Conference. "On a state level, about 55 percent of the lowest-wage workers are women."
New York State is in the midst of an incremental yearly minimum wage increase that began this year and ends in 2015 with a $9 an hour minimum, but groups like the NAACP, the Working Families Party and labor unions say that doesn't go far enough, particularly in New York City. They have formed Raise Up New York to demand higher wages in individual cities.
"It's worked very well in California, where they've passed a higher minimum wage in San Francisco, they passed a higher minimum wage in San Jose, and that's created upward pressure on the state minimum wage," said Bob Master of the Working Families Party.
Raise Up has not registered as a lobbyist in New York state, and supporters say the groups who fund it have been using their own resources. Mayor Bill de Blasio was an early supporter of letting localities set their own minimum, but Governor Andrew Cuomo is opposed, and it would be a longshot in the state Senate.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has also not been all that supportive, saying through a spokesman that he would like to see everyone in the state receive a higher minimum wage, and he has introduced legislation to increase the rate and speed up its implementation.
While it has a lot of the same supporters, organizers of Raise Up New York say it's different than the UPK New York City movement that was active during budget negotiations. They add that de Blasio, while supportive, has mostly kept his distance.