On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will become the first governor to call for a $15 minimum wage across his entire state.
A wage hike would need to be passed by the state legislature, where the state senate is Republican-controlled. But if his proposal were to become reality, that would give New York the country’s highest state minimum wage. A $15 minimum wage is also under consideration in Oregon, and California voters may weigh in on that wage level next year. New York’s minimum wage is currently $8.75 an hour and will rise to $9 by next year.
Cuomo is also expected to announce that the state labor commissioner has given final approval to a recommendation to raise minimum pay for fast food workers in the state to $15 an hour. That pay raise would come after Cuomo directed the labor board to study whether fast food wages in the state are adequate or should be raised to the $15 level, after which the board unanimously voted to recommend that they be raised.
But the governor’s newfound support for a $15 minimum wage constitutes a significant shift from his previous stance. In March, after a state Assembly bill was put forward to raise the state’s wage to $15, he commented, “God bless them — shoot for the stars.” He’s also fought publicly with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) over the latter’s effort to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, which Cuomo called a “nonstarter.” The city doesn’t have authority to raise the wage on its own but rather needs to get approval from the state legislature. At the time, Cuomo had his own plan to raise the city’s wage to $11.50 an hour and $10.50 for the rest of the state.
New York was the birthplace of the fast food movement that put a $15 wage on the national radar in the first place. It began with a one-day strike in 2012, the first in the history of the industry. Those strikes have since spread all across the country, accompanied by the call to raise base pay to $15 an hour and allow workers to unionize.
Their demands have had a huge impact. San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles have since passed minimum wage hikes that will eventually reach $15 an hour, and Emeryville, California has passed a $16 wage. The $15 minimum wage has even made it to Congress, where Democratic senators and representatives introduced a hike to that level in July. So far the White House has stuck to its call to raise wages to $12 an hour, but Vice President Joe Biden will join Cuomo for the announcement of his $15 wage proposal on Thursday.