Cuomo Increases Minimum Wage for SUNY Employees


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the minimum wage for almost 30,000 workers in the state university system will increase to $15 per hour.

Cuomo is expected to issue an executive order that would raise the minimum wage for State University of New York (SUNY) workers as part of a larger effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 across the state.

A $15 wage was recently given to state workers in November, affecting around 10,000 people. The wage for SUNY workers is expected to be phased in until 2018 in New York City and throughout the state until 2021, beginning with a wage increase to $9.75 per hour this February. The move will affect around 28,000 individuals, including staff, student workers, and work study participants.

$15 minimum wage was awarded to fast-food workers by Cuomo's administration without prior approval from lawmakers, writes Jesse McKinley for The New York Times.

The SUNY raises are expected to follow a similar timeline throughout the 64 campuses, with earlier increases for some city colleges, reports Joseph Spector for WGRZ.

Cuomo's office stated that the wage increase is expected to be approved by the SUNY Board of Trustees at their meeting later in the month.

Once fully implemented, the raises are estimated to cost $28 million, to be paid for by the SUNY system.

A rally was held by Cuomo in Manhattan at the headquarters of the healthcare workers union, Local 1199 SEIU. Union leaders there promised to continue to push for the $15 per hour minimum wage throughout the state.

"All New Yorkers will get respect and dignity for the work that we do," said 1199 president George Gresham. "Pity the elected official that tries to get in the way of 3 million New Yorkers who are trying to earn a decent living."

Calling it his first signature proposal of his 2016 agenda and giving it the name "Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice" after his late father, the former New York Governor, Cuomo said he will continue to seek a minimum wage of $15 per hour for all businesses across the state, which would make New York's minimum the highest in the nation. The move would increase the pay of 2.3 million New Yorkers, including 98,689 in Central New York. However, he first needs the approval of the state legislature.

Cuomo added that asking workers to choose between paying rent and buying food is "doing the wrong thing as a society."

"Minimum is about $18,000 a year. Food cost $9,000. Rent is about $11,000 a year," Cuomo said. "This is below a subsistence level. You can't make it on a minimum wage job. You need two, three or four minimum wage jobs to actually make it. And that's not what the minimum wage is about," he added.

The Legislature will return for a six-month session later this week, although Senate Republicans have suggested that such a raise for all businesses could carry with it unintended consequences by putting pressure on the private sector to also increase wages.

The minimum wage for New York State went from $8.75 per hour to $9 on December 31.

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