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For May Day, New Yorkers take minimum wage fight to the streets
The fight for a higher minimum wage is heating up as Senate Democrats failed to get enough votes to pass a hike to $10.10 per hour Wednesday.
And with little definitive movement in City Hall to raise pay, protesters, politicians and unions are taking to the streets in May Day events throughout Manhattan today.
The various assemblies will culminate in a 5 p.m. rally near City Hall to demand an increase in pay.
May Day rallies gained speed two years ago with the hight of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but fizzled out last year with fewer attendees. City Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito are two of the politicians who will be attending the demonstration.
"Worker's rights are humans rights, and the City Council is fully committed to fighting for and protecting the rights of every person who calls our city home," Mark-Viverito said in a statement.
Minimum wage in New York State went up 25 cents to $8 per hour this year. It will go up to $9 in 2016. At a City Council hearing yesterday, pols discussed a resolution that calls for the city to establish its own minumun wage, which the mayor has lobbied for. The mayor will not be attending today's rallies, said his spokeswoman.
The debate has been gaining momentum recently. If it had passed, the senate bill would have gradually raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, said a disappointed President Barack Obama at a news conference Wednesday.
Vinny Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, is one of the organizers for the evening rally Thursday. He said a "broad coalition" will be on hand, especially in light of yesterday's Senate vote.
"It cuts right to the heart of what we're trying to fight," Alvarez said. "We are not going to be able to grow our economies until we start to build our local economies from the bottom up and the middle out."
In December, fast food workers held a protest demanding the minimum wage be raised to $15 per hour. And Wednesday morning New York state lawmakers gathered in Albany to address what they called a crisis facing women in the state. They rallied to support legislation allowing cities and counties to raise wages above New York's $8 per hour minimum. The union 32BJ held a separate rally by City Hall Wednesday to demand equal pay for equal work for those who clean and maintain schools.
But not everyone is on board. David Laska, a spokesman for the Republican Party of New York State, said a federal minimum wage doesn't take into account the differing costs of living in different states.
"This sort of one-size-fits-all economic policy never works," Laska said. "It should be up to states, if not even municipalities."
Laska said the potential to price younger workers out of the market is an "unintended consequence" of raising the wage.
Michael Long, chair of the Conservative Party of New York State, worries raising the minimum wage puts jobs at risk for small businesses who may no longer be able to afford to keep their workers. "The debate on the minimum wage is nothing more than a phony debate. If America had a strong economy you don't need government setting a minimum wage," he said. "Less regulations, less mandates, lower taxes create job growth and economic growth."
Sen. Charles Schumer, who was in D.C. for the vote, said raising the minimum wage would create economic opportunities for New Yorkers.
"Simply put, it is an issue of basic fairness that lifts all boats, and that's why I will fight until we get this passed," he said in an e-mail.
Today's rallies include one at noon in Union Square and evening assemblies in Zuccotti Park.