Without Increase In Minimum Wage -- State Continues to Subsidize Underpaid Workers -- Gov. Cuomo

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Governor  Cuomo 
 
 
This afternoon, the Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice continued the “Drive for $15,” rallying with dozens of labor leaders and elected officials in Syracuse in support of enacting a $15 minimum wage for all workers. The rally followed a major endorsement of the governor’s proposal by nearly 90 businesses and business associations in New York State. With more than $15.7 billion in direct economic impact, Governor Cuomo is urging the State Legislature to pass his phased-in minimum wage proposal this legislative session.
 
 
Thank you, thank you. Well it is my pleasure to be here, first a big round of applause to Greg Lancette, thank you for being here. To my friend and a great, great governmental leader Van Robinson, it is a pleasure to be with you Van. Greg Gresham, George and I have – I don’t want to say how many miles we have been in the RV – but we have been going around the state, we are talking about this message, we are organizing people we are mobilizing people. It is the right fight and it is a fight we are going to win. And to 1199, they have always been in many ways the symbol of social justice, economic justice, they are always ready and willing to fight the good fight. Let’s give them a round of applause, George Gresham and 1199. To all of my colleagues in elected office, my brothers and sisters in the labor movement it is my pleasure to be here, you’ve heard the message it is a simple message, but it is powerful. 
 
We are about to do the state budget. In about one month from today, literally one month. The state budget is the main piece of legislation that we pass and it is going to decide whether or not we get critical issues done or not and they are life changing issues. We have a lot of issues in the state. I do not know that we have done a budget that has more profound ramifications than this budget. We raise the minimum wage, you heard from George, three million lives will be affected. Three million workers affected, think of the families. You will change their entire lives and it is not a mathematical equation. It is about principle, it is about values and it is about one word, which is fairness. It is about fairness. 
 
We named the campaign in the honor of my father, why? Because my father was a very simple guy. A working man from Queens and his whole life he kept it very simple. George used the term “Do the right thing.” There is still a right thing in life. As sophisticated as we get wherever we are, whatever position we are in, as Governor of the state of New York there is still a right thing and still a wrong thing. There is still respect and fairness and decency and treating one another with respect and decency. That is what this is about, everyone knows it, republican, independent, democrat. I don’t care which side you are on. The economy has changed and this is a different economy and we are creating jobs. We are working very hard. We have created more jobs in this state today than ever existed in the history of the state of New York. 
 
So we are creating jobs. But it’s also true that it is harder and harder for the working families and the middle class, and they have been on an economic treadmill and they are running faster and they are standing in place or they are going backwards. Because your earning potential literally in the middle-class has gone backwards. 
 
Rent is going up, food is going up, gasoline is going up, property taxes are going up – and the wages are not keeping pace with the costs. College tuition alone, how do you even imagine paying that? And people feel the anxiety, they feel the stress. And that was not the way it was supposed to be. Those were not the rules of the game. That was not fairness in our economic system. And that’s what we are trying to restore in this budget. 
 
First, it’s not just a feeling that people feel like they are going backwards, that they feel it is unfair. It’s not about emotion, these are facts. The middle class is going backwards. The way was at one time, fairness was as productivity went up, wages went up. And that was true for many, many years. Changed in about the 70s but up until then, productivity had increased over the last 50 years about 90 percent, wages went up 90 percent. Since the 70s, productivity went up 75 percent, wages went up 9 percent. One time, CEOs made about 20 times what the working men and women make. Now a CEO makes 300 times what a working man and woman make. The income inequality, the polarity, the polarization is worse than ever before. And the economy doesn’t work unless it’s fair for everyone. It just can’t be fair for a few. 
 
Now, the minimum wage was put into law by FDR, great governor of New York, great New Yorker. Came from New York, had the values of New York and what the minimum wage said was anyone who works full time, should earn a decent wage, decent. To have a decent life. The concept was whatever you do – we respect what you do. You’re a brick layer, you’re a plumber, and you’re a carpenter, even if you’re a politician – we respect what you do. And if you worked full time you should have a decent living. The minimum wage today is $9 per hour – that’s $18,000 a year. You cannot have a decent life on $18,000 a year period. Anywhere in this state. It’s math and it doesn’t add up. The cost of living is more than the minimum wage. So we say raise the minimum wage, restore decency, restore honor, restore dignity for the middle class and the working families in New York. 
 
Now, as George said, this is not without controversy. Why? Because it’s about power and it’s about corporations who don’t want to pay workers more money. It is that simple. It’s money in their pocket or it’s money in the workers’ pocket, and they want to keep the money in their pocket. It is just that simple. I wish I had a more sophisticated answer for you but I don’t. And when it comes to your government officials, the opponents of raising the minimum wage are pure hypocrites. They are pure hypocrites. Do you know why? They know that you can’t live on the minimum wage. They know that you can’t support a family on the minimum wage. You know how they know? Because people don’t. 
 
We just did a study with the fast food workers. You work at McDonald’s or Burger King. They pay you the minimum wage and you are still below the poverty rate in the state of New York. So do you know what happens? You’re eligible for benefits. The state of New York pays food stamps, welfare an average employee $7,000 of benefits in addition to what they were making at McDonald’s. So McDonald’s pays $18,000, and the taxpayers of New York supplement the salary with $7,000 in benefits because you can’t make it on $18,000. 
 
So when a government official stands up and says, “Oh no, you don’t need to raise the minimum wage,” Oh really? So then why does government have to subsidize the minimum wage? What they’re really saying is they’re representing the McDonald’s and Burger King corporations who are putting the money in their pockets and taking it out of your pockets. Why should the taxpayers of New York – why should the taxpayers of New York be subsidizing corporations that don’t want to pay the minimum wage. It is that simple. And what we’re saying here is it’s time the New York taxpayers get out of the hamburger business and get out of the retail business or any corporation that’s not paying the minimum wage and let the corporation pay for their workers. That’s what this is about. And that’s what fairness is all about. 
 
Now, this plays out in another level also. We have another proposal that we want to get done in the next month. It’s not just about wages. It’s not just about salary. We were talking about this in the RV on the way here. It’s really about the power relationship and the employee has much less power in this new economy than the employee used to have. Employees were more unionized, which was a form of giving power to the employees. So the employees had more bargaining power so they could negotiate a rate higher than the minimum wage. They didn’t need the law because they had negotiation power. They also had a benefit package. Fewer and fewer employees have those advantages and have that representation. More and more are abused by the employer. 
 
There was a time when if something happened at home – you had a loved one who was sick, you were having a baby – you went to the employer and you said, “I need a few weeks off.” The employer would work with you. Not in this economy. You go to an employer in this economy, you don’t have a union behind you, you don’t have a contract, and you say, “I need a few weeks off.” Do you know what most employers would say? “Why don’t you take those few weeks? In a matter of fact, why don’t you take a few more weeks because you’re not coming back, so I don’t really care how much time you have.”
 
We have a federal law that says a person has a right to take family leave for up to 12 weeks for a crisis – positive or negative. A loved one is dying or you have a new child and you want to be at home. Federal law says you can be at home for up to 12 weeks. But you’re home with no pay. Who is in an economic situation where you can just sit around for 12 weeks and not get a paycheck? It doesn’t work. We have a proposal in this state, in this legislature, in this budget, the best in the country – paid family leave – so a person can actually take those 12 weeks and can be with their family when they need to. 
 
Now, minimum wage and paid family leave are in this budget. This budget also has something that’s important, which is the largest economic development incentive program for upstate New York in the history of the state of New York. And I was talking to George about this who is from downstate New York. The truth is upstate New York has gotten the short end of the stick for many, many years from the New York State government. That is the truth. And one of the reasons why there has been a struggling economy is because when the economy turned and manufacturing jobs started to leave, the state government was not aggressive enough in working with local governments and coming up with a new economic plan. I am proud that one of my legacies will be I am the governor who gave more assistance to upstate New York than any governor in modern political history and I am happy about that.
 
We have in this budget a $25 billion package for upstate New York that is about one thing – jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, investing in education to get jobs, roads and bridges to get jobs, and we have to get that done. But I need you to make it happen. Because it’s true, it’s a cliché, but it’s true. I’ll go, I’ll fight with the politicians in Albany, and I’ll make my case to the legislature. But do you know who they listen to? They listen to their constituents, they listen to their voters, and they listen to the people who decide whether or not they turn to office. They listen to you. And I need you to get engaged to make your case so they hear your voice. And it is very simple. You demand progressive government. 
 
What is progressive government? First of all, it’s a government that represents you. Minimum wage – you say to them, “Are you with working men and women, or are you with the corporations? Are you with the employer or are you with the employee who demands a decent wage?” That’s what it is on minimum wage. And it is A or B on minimum wage. They are either with the middle class or the working families. I don’t care if you are a democratic, republican, independent, or whatever the other group is called, which I shall not name. It is A or B. you’re either with the person who needs representation or you’re with the corporation. 
 
Second thing progressive government is, it’s a government that gets something done, right? It’s a government that actually works for the people and produces results. Not just rhetoric. It doesn’t stand in the way of progress, but facilitates progress, facilitates growth, facilitates development and has a visible sign of progress for people where you can say things are getting better. My father, God rest his soul, used to say. “I’m a progressive pragmatist.” The second word is important, meaning pragmatics, meaning it’s practical, meaning it’s supposed to be doing things. Government is not about making speeches, it’s about creating jobs and educating children, etcetera. It’s about doing the right thing and providing fairness and decency to people. 
 
Upstate New York is coming back. Central New York is coming back. You can see it, you can feel it. We’ve made great progress over these past few years. You go look at the Inner Harbor development that’s coming up, you look at the new Film Hub, you look at Soraa – 425 jobs – the new Onondaga Amphitheater which is beautiful, $50 million for the state fair to redevelop and have a fair for tomorrow. You feel it coming back and you say, “We’re not giving up the momentum now. We want that state government to represent Syracuse and Central New York. We want to pass that minimum wage. We want to pass paid family leave. We want the help for upstate New York. We want our local governments representing and working for us, because Central New York is going to be better and we’re going to make it happen together. Thank you and God bless you. 
 

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