Community members and advocates rallied at the Piazza Ernesto Strada in Westbury recently to demand that Albany lawmakers raise the minimum wage and allow cities and counties to supplement it by up to 30%.
“Our communities are suffering because of low wages,” said Diane Goins, president of the Long Island Chapter of New York Communities for Change. “It is sinful that a family with two working parents cannot make a living on Long Island. Working families desperately need a raise in New York. Higher wages will ensure families on Long Island will not have to choose rent over medicine or food over rent. These are heart-breaking choices that many of our neighbors make each and every day. It is time for higher wages.”
Speakers said New York’s $8 minimum wage is nowhere near enough to support a family, certainly not in New York City nor Long Island. Organizers said they want the new Legislature that takes office in January to support Gov. Cuomo’s plan to raise the minimum to $10.10 an hour and allow cities and counties around the state to supplement that by up to 30%.
“Local governments should be able to raise their minimum wage to reflect the cost of living in their area,” said Rafael Cruz, a cleaner at Roosevelt Field Mall. “This affects all low-wage workers, from fast food workers to contracted airport workers.”
“Here on Long Island the minimum wage just doesn’t pay,” said Dagoberto Acevedo, a Westbury resident and member of Make the Road NY. “Men and women working full time struggle to provide basic resources for their families; train fares, gas and rising housing costs. Long Island should be able to set a wage that works for our communities. People working full time should be able to live in dignity.”
Rashad Mitchell, a community organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said: “As a member of the Westbury community and an organizer for LIPC, I have witnessed the growing poverty level on Long Island as minimum wage workers struggle to take care of basic needs due to the extremely low pay. Long Island’s cost of living continues to rise and so should the minimum wage.”
Several elected officials and candidates from across Long Island attended the rally. “Two-thirds of the country’s minimum wage workers are women, many of whom are the sole financial support for their family,” Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages said. “We can no longer accept to have working mothers and their families locked into a life of poverty as a result of low wages. It is time we valued these workers. Allowing cities and counties such as Nassau to raise the minimum wage is an important step toward economic equality. Now is the time to pass legislation in Albany to raise the minimum wage.”
Democratic State Senate candidate Adam Haber, said Senate Republicans “substantially watered down the last minimum wage increase in New York,” causing working people on Long Island to suffer.
“That is why we must let local cities and counties raise the wage to keep up with the high cost of living, especially in places like Nassau where prices are substantially above the state average, “ he said. “Hardworking Nassau residents deserve fair wages and they deserve a minimum wage that keeps up with the times.”