UnitedNY Executive Director Camille Rivera discusses the push for raising the minimum wage in New York City and the struggle to increase wages for airport and car wash workers in an interview with City Hall Bureau Chief Nick Powell.
Rivera is part of a large coalition of grassroots leaders, nonprofit organizations, and labor unions advocating for the state Legislature to give New York City and other communities across the state the power to increase the minimum wage on a local level.
In an recent op-ed in the Huffington Post she wrote, “we’re on a roll,” citing the recent wage increases for airline workers after a protest rally at LaGuardia Airport. Now, the coalition is turning its focus to supporting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push for the state to allow the city to set its own minimum wage.
“Where our economies are so concentrated in one area we believe that not just in New York City, but people over the state should be able to do this,” Rivera said.
Currently the minimum wage in New York State is $8 an hour and is set to rise to $9 an hour at the end of the year. Rivera says that $9 is way too low in a city like New York where the cost of living is so high.
“$15 an hour is the threshold you need to survive in this city,” she said.
Right now advocates for the increase are focusing on getting their message out by convincing low-wage workers to tell their stories and lobbying lawmakers, though navigating the politics of the issue remains a challenge. In comments today Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he was open to de Blasio’s proposal to give New York City home rule over its own wage increases, but that he was more focused on raising the minimum wage for the entire state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the other hand, has said that minimum wage increases are matters best left to the state.