On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 94th birthday we recall his message that true racial justice goes hand in hand with financial justice as he instructed hanging sanitation staff simply weeks earlier than his dying that “our wrestle is for real equality, which suggests financial equality.”
Dr. King’s legacy couldn’t be extra related to Black staff immediately, nearly half of whom make lower than $15 an hour, compared to 26% of white workers. As staff wrestle with historic worth will increase, New York should honor Dr. King’s legacy by elevating New York’s minimal wage to $21.25 by 2026.
New Yorkers live via the gravest cost-of-living disaster in 40 years. With the minimal wage frozen at $15 an hour, the minimal wage is now price 15% lower than in 2019 — leaving underpaid staff to bear the brunt of this disaster. That hits Black girls and girls of shade hardest, 41% of whom make less than $15 an hour.
Gov. Hochul not too long ago proposed “indexing” the minimal wage in order that it goes up yearly with the price of dwelling. New York can be becoming a member of 18 different states that already index their minimal wage. However New York’s staff want a increase first, or to be extra correct, a restoration of what $15 can be price immediately had it stored up with rising costs, which interprets to $21.25.
That is neither far fetched nor price prohibitive, however completely mandatory. Right here’s why.
The idea of indexing isn’t new for New York, however staff have been overlooked. Toll charges throughout the state have been listed to rising prices for years, making certain that the town and state have the revenues they should grapple with rising prices. Why ought to or not it’s any totally different for working households? A $21.25 minimal wage represents what staff can be receiving by 2026 had New York listed its first-in-the-nation $15 minimal wage again in 2019 to maintain up with rising costs and employee productiveness.
The first driver of worth will increase is just not the price of labor or uncooked supplies, however income, which now account for greater than a 3rd of rising prices. Companies have seen a few of their greatest income over the previous decade; income really spiked through the pandemic. However these document income usually are not reaching their staff.
For instance, UPS noticed its income soar throughout 2021, resulting from worth will increase and quantity development. Simply months after making $10 billion in annual revenue, nonetheless, UPS executives slashed the wages of their part-time workers who in New York Metropolis wrestle on about $16 an hour. Equally, Chipotle skilled document income in 2021 after which solely raised restaurant wages to an average of $15. They failed to say that in addition they elevated their CEO’s wage, doubling his revenue from $16.1 million to $38 million.
Executives and shareholders throughout varied industries report document salaries, but the employees liable for their success are struggling to make ends meet. We are able to’t inform folks to work for a dwelling after which watch them go broke attempting, whereas the folks on the high get even richer.
If we don’t restore the worth of New York’s minimal wage earlier than indexing it, we will likely be codifying poverty pay and the present eroded minimal wage for precisely the employees who hold our state afloat, leaving Black girls additional behind than ever. As an alternative, New York can uplift 2.9 million staff to assist them alter to rising prices proper now and afford the sources wanted to help their households. Meaning extra spending and extra money to tax.
An financial restoration is inconceivable with out working households having the means to afford fundamental requirements by supporting small and native companies. Implementing a $21.25 listed wage offers them the flexibility and safety to try this now and sooner or later.
Plus it’s in style! New polling from Information For Progress reveals that 80% of New York voters — 89% of Democrats, 82% of independents, and 65% of Republicans — agree that staff in immediately’s atmosphere want rather more than $15 an hour, and help my laws with Senate Labor Chair Jessica Ramos to lift the minimal wage to $21.25, after which introduce computerized will increase annually after that.
Ready too lengthy to revive a good minimal wage hinders our financial restoration and preparedness, and reverses victories already gained to assist uplift Black minimal wage staff. Taking motion now will strengthen our workforce, help small companies and shrink the racial wealth hole — reworking our financial system to turn into extra resilient and simply.
Ten years in the past, New York led the nation as the primary state to take motion in response to the worker-of-color-led struggle for $15 motion, embodying Dr. King’s dedication to financial and racial justice. Allow us to show our dedication to racial and financial justice as soon as once more and struggle for $21.25.
Joyner is chair of the Meeting Labor Committee.