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February 6, 2015

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Minimum wage in New York should be a "living wage", say activists

KINGSTON – Last year’s call by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to raise the minimum wage from $8.75 to $10.50 per hour falls far short of an actual “living wage,” said a coalition of activists Thursday afternoon in Kingston.

Citizen Action, Working Families, End the New Jim Crow Action Network, Hudson Valley Progressives, and CSEA, all joined forces to release the new 2015 Job Gap Report, entitled Low Wage Nation.


Several groups made their point on Thursday

“Workers are falling short financially, and there are few living wage jobs to go around,” said Kat Fisher, lead organizer for the Kingston chapter of Citizen Action, a nonprofit social reform group.  We share a growing concern over the proliferation of low wage jobs in Upstate New York, it is a dangerous trend. Without action,  the living wage crisis will only continue to worsen.”

“Working a full time job should allow any single adult to pay for the basic necessities of life,” agreed Phillip  Leber, Hudson Valley regional political director of the Working Families Party. “The frank truth is that’s not happening. Let’s face it, $8.75 an hour is just not going to cut it. Nobody could survive on that. It’s nearly impossible to raise a family even on $13 or $14 an hour, especially in a state as expensive as ours.”

According to the report, published by Alliance for a Just Society, individual New Yorkers living upstate currently require $18.47 per hour to get by without public assistance. A total of 61 percent of New York jobs fail to meet that criteria, with only 58,410 “living wage” jobs statewide, which is one out of every eight jobs.

If you want to have kids, the picture grows more grim. One child raises the price tag to $27.13 per hour, 76 percent of New York jobs are below living wage, numbering just 35,460 statewide.  For two children, 86 percent fall short in compensation, numbering 21,490 statewide. Here the living wage jumps to $36.52 per hour, or $33.01 for two adults, one working, one staying home.

Activists say the answer is more higher paying jobs. They singled out Walmart as the worst culprit in America’s corporate workforce, but also including most other national retail box store chains as well.

Leber said that the top wealthiest one percent since the recession, have captured all of New York’s income growth.

“It is high time for Working Families to get their fair share of that income growth, and we need it now,” Leber said.


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