by Tom Magnarelli
Local and state labor groups rallied in the Village of Liverpool outside of Syracuse Tuesday for a $15 an hour minimum wage in upstate New York. The state approved an increase to the minimum wage earlier this year that will bump it up to $12.50 an hour in upstate in five years. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he eventually wants upstate to reach $15 an hour.
But included in the plan is a break to examine if the upstate economy can sustain the increase. Joe Paparone, with the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition, said while the fight for $15 movement has been going on for years, it will not go away just because legislation passed this year.
“Upstate did not get $15 an hour and won’t have $15 an hour, maybe ever at this point according to the legislation,” Paparone said. “We’re going to keep coming out here because people don’t have enough money to eat, they don’t have enough money to pay for reasonable housing and they’re struggling and they’re working hard. That’s the other thing people seem to forget, that these are workers.”
Activists came from across the state to share their support. Angela Warner runs the food pantry at the St. Vincent de Paul Church in Albany. While Warner said the food pantry is unfortunately a growing business, she wants to focus on ways to reduce the numbers of those who need it.
"The only way that our parish can do that is by addressing the underlying issues that lead to poverty which is hunger and low wages," Warner said. "We have made a commitment in our church to support issues that will raise our food pantry guests' wages so they can support themselves and their families."
The labor groups, which also included the Workers Center of Central New York and the Central New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, called for an end to wage theft and the right for farm workers to organize.
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