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Wage wars: Workers for, business against a hike

A group in favor of a minimum wage increase held this sign at a public forum last week in the Common Council Chambers.

A group in favor of a minimum wage increase held this sign at a public forum last week in the Common Council Chambers. Photo by Neil Benjamin Jr..

According to federal stastics, New York had a poverty level of 14.9 percent in 2010. Dennis applauded the Assembly’s effort to try to end poverty, but said hikes aren’t the “end-all.”

“We still won’t be where we need to be,” he said.

Denise Elijah, a Local 200 member and director of a bus company, sat next to Dennis, and spoke on her experiences. Elijah said she makes $12 an hour, which is too much for her to qualify for social services. She has children, and says she doesn’t earn enough to provide a quality living environment for them.

Wright gave a heartfelt response, saying $8.50 isn’t enough. He said the living wage in Central New York, without health insurance benefits, is about $13. Elijah shot back saying if the minimum wage increases, it’ll hopefully push her wage up a bit.

Walter Dixie of the National Action Network summed up his feelings in his first sentence.

“I have to saw New York deserves a raise,” he said. “No full-time worker should have to worry about what bills to have to pay. [The minimum wage] is not enough – rent, food, maintain a car. Just imagine trying to support a family on it, on $290 per week.”

He said it’s high time for a raise, and that if the wage rose with the rate of inflation since the 1960s, it would be $11 per hour today. In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted by Congress, which brought about the first minimum wage. It was supposed to ensure that low-wage workers earn enough to buy the bare necessities of life. It’s been proven that since its inception, the minimum wage hasn’t kept pace with inflation.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics said the value of the minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $1.50. If that wage had ben indexed to inflation, that number would be $10 today.

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