Polls show majority of voters support Andrew Cuomo’s call for minimum wage

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cuomo Implements Measures To Help Convicts Re-Enter Society.

Andrew Cuomo’s new push for a $15 statewide minimum wage will face many obstacles next year, including a hostile business community and a Republican State Senate majority.

The Siena Research Institute Poll released Thursday morning found 59% of state voters support Cuomo’s campaign for the higher wage and only 38% of voters oppose it. What’s more, 58 percent say they side with the arguments of minimum wage increase supporters, while 38 percent support the detractors in that argument. Andrew Cuomo announced he will implement a series of 12 measures that will help New Yorkers with criminal convictions re-enter their communities after serving their sentences. “New York is a state of opportunity, where individuals from all backgrounds and circumstances are given a fair chance to pursue their goals,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The work of this Council increases the ability of our fellow citizens with criminal convictions to contribute positively to their families and communities, which creates a fairer and safer New York.” Governor Cuomo created the Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration in July 2014 and tasked them with identifying barriers formerly incarcerated people face and making recommendations for change. A number of cities, however, are not waiting for Congress to act and are instituting higher wage floors of their own. “It certainly has become a larger issue, because the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) has invested quite a bit of money into the effort,” says Michael Saltman, research director for the Employment Policies Institute in Washington, D.C. “With the amount of money being spent, it’s not surprising it has a high media profile. Of course, the poll shows a predictable party split (79 percent of Democrats support raising the wage; 63 percent of Republicans don’t), and the region most supportive of raising the wage is high-cost New York City.

Thus far, this wage hike, demanded by low-wage fast food workers since 2012, has been adopted in four California cities — Los Angeles, Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco — and in Seattle. (cnbc.com, Sept. 11) However, this proposal must be passed by the N.Y. state Legislature, which is dominated by conservatives opposed to major wage hikes. On average, New York State releases more than 25,000 people from prison each year and research shows that without successful re-entry policies, that there is a higher rate of re-convictions, according to the governor’s office. Hector Figueroa, the president of 32BJ SEIU, the building workers’ union, argued the popularity of the minimum wage across demographic and ideological lines will force Senate Republicans to back an increase to $15 an hour–especially since Democratic candidates plan to run on the issue. “I think it’s gonna put a lot pressure on Republicans,” Mr. Especially with Democrats and independents and even with some Republicans.” One motivation for conservative Republicans, who hold a razor thin majority in the Senate, to back a wage increase during the legislative session from January to June could be that it would remove a key campaign issue from the November 2016 general election, Democrats say.

It’s been eight weeks since the contract expired on Aug. 1 for nearly 40,000 Verizon workers, represented by the Communication Workers and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, from Maine to Virginia, and “Verigreedy” hasn’t blinked. The union-busting telecommunications company, whose monthly profits are $1 billion, wants to gut job and retirement security and sever all lines of communication between the two unions. Not surprisingly, the Common Core standards and the implementation of them don’t get nearly the same kind of endorsement — or much of an endorsement at all for that matter.

During a town hall phone conference on Sept. 15, Vice President Ed Mooney of CWA District 2-13 reported that when the unions presented a study showing the company could achieve $100 million in annual savings in its current health care plan without raising what workers pay, the company dismissed it. A majority of Republicans are opposed to the idea, the poll found, but Republican senators will be chasing swing voters and moderates in an election year that is expected to heavily favor Democrats. While midterm elections cycles, where voters are older and whiter, recently favored Republicans, presidential years have brought waves of Democrats to the voting booths.

When companies pay poverty wages, millions of Americans — even those who work 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year — must rely on programs such as nutrition assistance to make ends meet.” Not so fast, Saltman says. “Our position is that you can have the same number of jobs or you can have a $15 minimum wage, but you can’t have both,” he says. Locals are also conducting weekly pickets and rallies, like the one demanding that Bianca Cunningham — who helped organize Verizon Wireless workers at six Brooklyn stores to join CWA Local 1109 in 2014 — be rehired after a retaliatory firing in early September (sign a petition to reinstate her at tinyurl.com/psmt59j). Figueroa said. “I expect to have Republicans surprise us, to change the way they are looking at the issue.” The challenge, he said, is to “make a campaign in districts where Republican incumbents are so they can hear from their constituents and find out what will change in the lives of people they represent if they’re able to get a raise.” Many questions still remain. These include teenagers seeking their first paid jobs, the poorly educated or disabled, and people living in areas with chronically low productivity — perhaps because of inadequate investment in the machinery and software that workers need to boost output.

Recall that the highest percentages of state test opt-outs in April were from outside the five boroughs. “It’s not like the Governor hasn’t been in public or involved in a lot of issues over the last two months since Siena College’s July poll,” Greenberg said, listing off Cuomo’s minimum wage announcement, his executive order naming the attorney general as a special prosecutor, his appearances with Vice President Joe Biden and other announcements as proof. “Yet, voters’ view of Cuomo – both his personal favorability and job performance rating – is nearly identical today as to how they felt about him two months ago.” The other noteworthy favorable-unfavorable numbers are those of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, both of whom ascended to power in the last legislative session. After dipping to an all-time-low 48 percent approval rating in 2009, union support began a slow climb, reaching 53 percent in 2014, with a leap to 58 percent in 2015. In January 2014, seven Nobel laureates and eight ex-presidents of the American Economic Association signed a letter backing a federal minimum wage of $10.10 an hour by 2016, up from $7.25.

Cuomo has made sweeping proclamations before–passing the Dream Act, reforming the campaign finance system, making redistricting completely independent of lawmakers–and has willingly shunted them to the side when the political calculus changed. He has traveled upstate this summer as well — though not quite as much as Heastie — but 82 percent of voters here don’t know enough about the GOP senator from Long Island. A resolution demanding such treatment — passed unanimously on Aug. 9 by the Delegate Assembly of the National Writers Union, United Auto Workers Local 1981 — was raised as an example of what should be done. (WW, Aug. 20) After NWU member Sue Davis raised that at a Workers World Party meeting, it was decided that a campaign for unions and other progressive organizations to pass similar resolutions should be initiated.

An assistant manager at a fast food restaurant who has worked her way up to $15 after several years may not be happy about an entry-level worker receiving the same salary. Just imagine an employer in Orange County, California, with a large number of minimum-wage workers who can cross into Los Angeles County and receive a significant raise for doing the same job. Where do we find the money? “What businesses have to do is find ways other than prices increases to offset the increases,” Saltman says. “Many businesses that pay minimum wage are price-sensitive. Supervisors earning only a few dollars more than their subordinates might return to the ranks, complaining that the hassles of being a boss are not worth the meager extra pay.

Perhaps the best advice is to follow the news and keep an eye on what businesses are doing in cities that already have opted in to a high minimum wage. “Phasing in a bewildering number of wage schedules raises questions from an HR perspective,” Saltman says. “You need to tell the story of how it has affected your business.

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