For Immediate Release: April 18, 2012 Contact: Gary Ginsburg | garykginsburg@gmail.

com | 518-817-6193

Senate Democratic Conference Holds Public Forum Advocating Minimum Wage Increase (Albany, NY) The Senate Democratic Conference today hosted a public forum on increasing the New York State minimum wage. The forum was attended by members of the Democratic Conference, as well as Howard Hubbard, Bishop of Albany, business and advocacy groups and New Yorkers currently working for minimum wage. “As many New Yorkers continue to struggle financially raising the minimum wage is not only the right thing to do, it will actually strengthen our economy and speed up our recovery,” Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson said. “Overwhelmingly, our state’s residents support a higher minimum wage, and I urge government leaders to work together and ensure that all New Yorkers are provided fair wages.” The Senate Democrats had requested for a committee hearing to be held on raising the minimum wage, but the Senate Republican Majority turned down that request. However, since any Senator may convene a public forum on proposed or pending legislation, today’s forum was organized to discuss this vital issue and provide advocates the opportunity to have their voices heard. The specific legislation discussed at the forum was Senate bill 6335-B, sponsored by Senator Adriano Espaillat and supported by the Democratic Conference. This bill would raise the minimum wage to $8.50 in 2013 and $9.25 in 2014 and link raising the minimum wage to the rate of inflation starting in 2015. By ensuring regular review of the state’s minimum wage and including a system for increasing it based on inflation, this legislation will ensure that New Yorkers earning minimum wage never again incur de facto pay cuts due to inflation. “Raising the minimum wage is not only the right thing to do, it will also improve our economy and help New Yorkers who continue to struggle,” bill sponsor Senator Adriano Espaillat said. “This bill would provide for increased compensation to residents earning minimum wage and will implement a formula to ensure that the minimum wage rises with inflation going forward. We need to make this a top item for consideration during the remainder of the legislative session.” Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Bishop of Albany and Co-Chair of the Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS, said, “When full-time workers cannot afford to purchase healthy food, pay rent and access vital health care, their wages are unjust. When workers must labor day and night, in multiple jobs to piece together a livable income as the fabric of family and community life is torn apart, their wages are unjust. When workers suffer the enduring consequences of poverty such as ill health, impeded educational achievement, and housing instability- even as company executives amass extraordinary wealth- their wages are unjust. It is time to raise New York’s minimum wage.” Increasing the minimum wage to $8.50 would help approximately one million workers, which is about 11 percent of the New York’s workforce. In a recent letter to Majority Leader Skelos, Conference Leader Sampson demonstrated that among other reasons to raise the minimum wage, Massachusetts and

Connecticut recently raised their minimum wages and both states outpaced the national economy last year. The ripple effect of raising the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 would be significant enough to create roughly 7,500 new jobs here in New York. “During the 1960s and '70s, a single minimum-wage job could keep a three-person family above the federal poverty level,” Senator José Peralta, Ranking Member of the Senate Labor Committee, said. “Today, it's simply impossible to make ends meet in New York earning only the minimum wage. There is not a more important issue than the state of the economy. We in government are compelled to enable working people to support their families.” “Working families in New York State are feeling squeezed by rising costs of food, transportation and housing,” Senator Gustavo Rivera said. “In New York, an individual or family living off of a full-time minimum wage job is living in poverty. We have to demand better for working families like the ones I represent in the Northwest Bronx. It’s time for New York to increase the minimum wage and having a public forum is one of the first steps to making it happen.” “The average woman working in New York makes 25 percent less than the average man, and women make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers. The choice should be obvious: this government can narrow the wage gap, help working New Yorkers, and, misinformation to the contrary, actually give the economy a boost,” Senator Liz Krueger said. “All the Senate Republicans would have to do is stand up for women -- and all working New Yorkers -- and increase the minimum wage.” “New York remains behind the curve in supporting those who are working hard to support themselves and their families,” Senator Daniel Squadron said. “A strong middle class -- and a strong New York -depend on raising the minimum wage to help working New Yorkers, keep our state competitive, and grow our economy. Yet the Senate Republicans refuse to even have a conversation on something that is so critical to New York’s future, making today's public forum all the more important. I’m proud to join my colleagues and all of the advocates here today in fighting for New York's families and workers.” “Families in New York State have seen their cost of living increase while their salaries have stagnated, decreased, or disappeared due to loss of employment,” Senator Shirley L. Huntley said. “The passage of Senate Bill S.6335 will undoubtedly help many struggling individuals and families who are trying to make ends meet during this difficult economic climate. Working class New Yorkers deserve an opportunity to effectively support themselves and their families, without having to live paycheck to paycheck or solely rely on public assistance.” Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, said, “The demand for emergency food has increased by more than 60% in our state over the last four years and our three thousand food pantries and soup kitchens now feed more than 3 million New Yorkers annually. More than a third of our guests are the working poor, families who work but fail to make enough to pay for basic necessities such as food, housing, energy and clothing. It is time to turn the minimum wage into a living wage rather than a poverty wage.” Tsedeye Gebreselassie, an attorney with the National Employment Law Project (NELP), said, “Across the country, our staff are recognized as policy experts in areas related to minimum wages. It is with that knowledge that we say raising New York’s minimum wage and indexing it to inflation will help frontline workers who are being squeezed by flat wages and rising prices. It will also help accelerate the recovery by boosting the consumer spending that New York’s economy needs in order to keep growing.”

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