Gov. Cuomo, Invoking Father, Signs Law to Raise Minimum Wage to $15 in NYC by 2018

Cuomo and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton marked the occasion Monday at a Manhattan rally with labor leaders and workers; President Obama also praises the move

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, invoking his late father's calls for economic justice, signed a law on Monday that will gradually raise New York's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Accompanied on stage by Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, Cuomo told a crowd of hundreds of cheering union workers after the bill signing that his father was "looking down on us today" and smiling.

"He is proud of the example that his state has set to the people of this country," he told a cheering crowd of maintenance, health care, transit, hotel and construction workers.

The elder Cuomo, a liberal Democrat and skilled orator, served three terms as New York's governor. He died on New Year's Day in 2015.

Andrew Cuomo named the lobby effort to persuade lawmakers to pass the legislation after his father. The bill also establishes 12 weeks of paid family leave for workers.

President Barack Obama praised the legislation in a statement.

"Now Congress needs to act to raise the federal minimum wage and expand access to paid leave for all Americans," he said.

The law gradually raises the minimum wage to $15 in New York City by the end of 2018 and in some prosperous suburbs by the end of 2021. But it will only rise to $12.50 in the rest of the state by 2020, with further increases tied to economic indicators. In all, about 2.3 million workers are expected to benefit from the increases.

Also Monday, California's governor signed a bill into law that will raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. After that it will continue to rise each year by up to 3.5 percent to account for inflation.

The wage hike will affect 5.6 million workers, or about one-third of California’s workforce, officials said.

Los Angeles, Seattle and other cities have also recently approved $15 minimum wages, while Oregon officials plan to increase the minimum to $14.75 an hour in cities and $12.50 in rural areas by 2022.

Back in New York, Tommy Milton, who leads the 1,200-member Iron Workers' Local 580, said the move was "about  time." 

"It's not easy living in this state," he said. "It's very expensive."

Clinton, who did not attend the bill signing, told the crowd it was time to "go all the way to Washington and raise the minimum wage for everybody."

But some workers at the Manhattan rally said they wished Clinton, who has backed federal legislation that would create a $12-per-hour minimum wage, would explicitly endorse the push for a nationwide $15 minimum wage.

"Don't just give us political rhetoric," said Earl Phillips, secretary treasurer of Transit Workers' Union Local 100.

Home-care worker Mary Ellen Gibbs was less concerned, arguing Clinton could be convinced.

"We're serial activists," she said. "We know how to push to get what we want."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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