Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Minimum wage push continues

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 4:15 PM

New York's Fight for $15 carries on.

Earlier this month, the State Legislature passed a budget that included a phased-in boost in the state's minimum wage. Downstate, the wage will increase to $15 an hour by 2021. But in Upstate, the wage will reach $12.50 an hour by 2021, and then will increase to $15 an hour according to an index set by the state's budget director.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction," said Shareen Gfeller, a manager at the Wendy's on East Ridge Road and Portland Avenue. 

But the plan isn't sitting well with local union leaders and activists, who marched through downtown last week in protest. The final wage deal was a missed opportunity for reducing poverty in Monroe County by raising the wages of approximately one-third of its workers, all of whom currently make less than $15 an hour, said Bruce Popper, executive vice president of the Rochester-Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation.

Popper said that union members and activists need to keep pressure on elected officials to pass a true $15 minimum wage for the whole state.

Gfeller works full time, has two kids and one more on the way, and says that she often has to decide whether to pay bills, pay rent, or buy groceries or diapers. As a fast food worker, she'll make at least $15 an hour in a few years, thanks to a 2015 state wage board decision. The increase will help her, she said, but everyone should get a $15 minimum, not just fast food workers.

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