YONKERS, NY — Leaders across Westchester County endorsed new legislation today allowing cities and counties across New York to supplement the state’s $8 per hour minimum wage. Their announcement comes on the heels of a new Siena Poll released Tuesday morning showing that nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers — and at least two-thirds in every region of the state — support allowing local governments to increase the minimum wage in their community to a higher rate than the state’s minimum wage.
The new legislation is sponsored by State Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Black and Latino Caucus Chair Assemblyman Karim Camara (D-Brooklyn). Camara says the legislation is among the caucus’s top priorities for this session.
Westchester County leaders praised the plan:
"Now, more than ever, millions of hardworking New Yorkers are playing by the rules and yet still struggle to make ends meet. As most of us know already, it's just not feasible to live on $8 an hour. Not when we have the country's worst income inequality. Adjusting minimum wage regionally will directly help minimize the impacts the greater cost of living so many face, and hopefully move earners up the economic ladder,” said Mike Spano, Mayor of Yonkers.
“Local wage authorization can help workers make ends meet, while also strengthening our local economy. Allowing communities to set a fair local minimum wage will make a big difference, especially in a high cost region like Westchester. And across the state, this action could lift wages for nearly 3 million New Yorkers,” said Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle.
“I believe that local governments should have the ability to lead by example. A growing number of local officials from Long Island to NYC to Upstate NY believe that local elected officials should have the ability to enact higher local minimum wage laws for their jurisdictions. This will reduce inequality and improve the quality of life of many people –offering them living wages. It will also reduce their need to apply for and receive services currently provided for by taxpayers to offset their low pay. A living wage will end the cycle of reliance on government subsidies. Local officials understand the stresses working people have who are underpaid. We also understand that there are benefits by giving employees livable wages. I am proud to stand with the working families party and with other elected officials and support local wage authorization in New York State,” said Paul Feiner, Town Supervisor of Greenburgh.
“Westchester County has one of the highest costs of living of any in the United States. Ossining has one of the most diverse populations in the county – diverse in race, color, creed, religion, and sexual orientation, as well as levels of economic viability. Our residents are bankers, real estate agents, musicians, motion picture editors, fast food workers and day workers. Our housing fills the needs of almost all of them. Our Board of Trustees guaranteed that by enacting an affordable housing set aside law five years ago. But even such housing is unaffordable to those who are in the last two groups.
"Neither the Federal nor the NYS laws guarantee sufficient income to pay the rent and otherwise provide for themselves and their families. The minimum wage, set by those two governments, even with the unlikely-to-pass increases, is inadequate. Progressive legislators have passed enabling acts allowing local municipalities to treat state minimum wages as just that and set their own above those floors. The Trustees of the Village of Ossining and I believe our residents and those across the State need and deserve to thrive, not subsist on poverty wages. We encourage the NYS Legislature to pass an amendment to the minimum wage law enabling local municipalities to better serve our residents by setting our own,” said William R. Hanauer, Mayor of Village of Ossining.
”Our largest corporations and highest income earners are making more money than ever, but the paltry gains made by our working poor don't even keep pace with inflation. In fact, New York State law gives minimum wage workers less purchasing power now than in 1968. As a result, the State ends up subsidizing these wage earners' basic needs, from health insurance to SNAP food assistance, while corporate profits grow. There is such a wide disparity in the cost of living in different parts of New York State, that local governments need the authority to set higher minimum wages than the $9 per hour State minimum. Basic fairness, both to the working poor and to our taxpayers, requires no less,” said Mary-Jane Shimsky, Westchester County Legislator.
“The Envisioning Westchester Collective, a network of progressive activist leaders and organizations from across Westchester County committed to addressing issues of inequality, strongly urges the New York State Legislature to enact legislation allowing localities to have wage-setting authority, enabling them to independently raise their own local minimum wage – making the state minimum wage a floor and not a ceiling,” said Charles W. Bell, Chair of Envisioning Westchester Collective.
"WESPAC strongly supports the Local Wage Authorization Campaign. The minimum wage is not a livable wage. We encourage all the municipalities in Westchester County to raise the local minimum wage so that people who work in our municipalities are able to live in those same towns and cities with fair wages. This campaign will have a positive impact on reducing long distance commuting, traffic congestion and carbon emissions. This campaign, if implemented, will improve the quality of life for all residents and will increase the purchasing capacity for low wage earners which will boost our local economy. It is a win win campaign for people and the environment,” said Nada Khader, Executive Director of WESPAC Foundation.
“The Mount Vernon United Tenants strongly supports local wage authorization for New York. It is the most impactful policy Albany can pursue to address the staggering economic inequalities we face today. A healthy economy depends on businesses that pay their employees enough to get by, whether they live in rural upstate or an expensive New York City suburb,” said Dennis Hanratty, Executive Director of Mount Vernon United Tenants.