Expert Opinion: Raise minimum wage for working men and women
As the largest property services union in the nation, with more than 145,000 members, 32BJ SEIU has been on the front lines fighting on behalf of working men and women for more than 50 years in every corner of New York and up and down the Atlantic states from Boston to Miami.
In addition to fighting for contracted airport workers, school cleaners, security guards, doormen, building superintendents and janitors, we are focused this year on legislative change in Albany that will benefit workers in New York City and all across New York state.
Our top priority is to fight alongside Gov. Andrew Cuomo and our allies to raise New York’s minimum wage to $15 for all working men and women. Low wage workers across the country, led by fast food workers, have set $15 an hour plus indexing as the new minimum wage working people need to support themselves. The state Wage Board has approved the $15 minimum for fast food workers and we will be fighting to expand it to all workers.
Despite claims from conservative pundits and some business leaders, the raise will not have apocalyptic consequences. It will be phased in over three years in New York City and six years across the state. Studies show any price increases would be small, and that most cities that have raised the minimum have actually gained jobs, rather than lost them.
The Legislature must implement the Fair Elections Act, which would provide public matching dollar-fordollar support for candidates who raise small amounts from local residents. We need this now so a handful of fatcat donors and hedge-funders cannot drown out the voice of voters and small donors.
We also will fight for the Paid Family Leave Insurance Act, which would give working families 12 weeks of paid leave a year to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. This would be entirely employee-paid through small payroll deductions and will piggyback on our existing temporary disability insurance fund, which will minimize any additional administrative requirements for businesses.
32BJ is also committed to help pass the Dream Act to ensure tuition assistance for undocumented students. The act would allow undocumented students to receive funding for higher education through the Tuition Assistance Program. This will help them reach their full potential, contribute to their communities, and support the growth of our state’s economy.
Héctor Figueroa is President, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union