New York City’s Mayor Calls For The Highest Minimum Wage In The Country


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivering his 2015 State of the City Address

In his State of the City Address on Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) called for a minimum wage increase that would rise to $15 an hour by 2019.

While de Blasio took office promising to push for a change in state law that would allow the city to set its own minimum wage, he laid out concrete steps for how he would like to see the wage raised. In his address, he called to raise it to $13 an hour in 2016 and then increase automatically with inflation after that, eventually bringing the minimum wage to the $15 level. He said such indexing is important because “it means that hardworking New Yorkers won’t have to wait on new action from Albany just to keep pace with inflation.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has proposed a different plan. In January, he put forth a proposal that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by the end of 2016 and the rest of the state to $10.50. De Blasio pushed back at that plan in his speech, saying, “The current wage proposal simply doesn’t do enough to help New York City.” State lawmakers increased the minimum wage last year so that it will rise to $9 an hour by 2016.

De Blasio’s call for a $15 wage comes after city lawmakers introduced legislation last year that would increase the minimum wage at chain stores with sales of $50 million or more to that level. It also comes after the city has been home a number of strikes by fast food workers demanding at least $15 an hour, including the original one-day strike two years ago. Those workers and their Fight for 15 campaign have put that wage level on the agenda, and since then Seattle has adopted a $15 wage and it’s been proposed in other cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago.

A $15 minimum wage is so far the highest proposal being considered by a city or state, but plenty of places have raised their wages to other levels. After increases on January 1 either due to changes in law or automatic adjustments, a majority of states have higher minimums than the federal floor of $7.25 an hour. Action to raise the national wage has stalled multiple times, however.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 may sound like a huge increase, one that would be hard for businesses to weather without cutting jobs, but a recent study found that in the fast food industry, companies could absorb the increase in costs without laying off employees or hurting profits. Other studies of minimum wage increases have found little to no evidence that they result in job losses.