Cuomo pushes progressive agenda in telephone town hall
ALBANY — In an effort to shore up support for a $15 minimum wage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a telephone town hall Thursday night, answering questions from voters throughout the five boroughs.
“We’re now coming into the heat of the negotiating session with the Assembly and the Senate and now we’re going to determine whether or not our key legislative proposals actually pass,” Cuomo told listeners, highlighting his push to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour and his proposal for 12 weeks of employee-funded paid family leave.
Cuomo also talked about the economic stress on the middle class and why a $15 minimum wage would be beneficial.
“The economic anxiety that’s out there is real and palpable and it’s not a feeling, it’s a fact,” Cuomo said. “It is a fact that working families in this state and in this country have been going backwards. It’s a fact that the middle class is under stress and has been going backwards and it’s a fact that we have the worst income inequality and polarization of wealth than we’ve had.”
Cuomo, along with George Gresham— the president of 1199 SEIU— took about half a dozen questions from participants, who asked how the governor reached the $15 figure, why was he able to raise the wage for fast food workers, and why the state is pushing to increase the minimum wage and not the federal government.
Patricia from Manhattan, who told callers she was a home care worker, asked how she could get involved with the push.
Gresham told callers that they’d be able to record a message to their legislators once the conference called finished and that the Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice — the name given to the coalition of unions and advocacy groups pushing for a $15 minimum wage — would be holding a rally in the state Capitol on March 15, just as budget negotiations begin in earnest.
“We lost my father about a year ago. Really beautiful human being who I miss very much,” Cuomo said. “One of his main platforms was economic justice and providing for the middle class and government standing up for the little guy and that’s just what this is all about, this $15 campaign and standing up for the little guy and standing up to the powerful forces. And I’m sure my father is looking down and I’m sure he’s smiling because this is the right fight and this is the good fight and I’m pleased and proud to be in it."
Earlier this year, as he was delivering his annual state and budgetary address, the governor invoked the final moments he spent with his father to make an impassioned plea for paid family leave.
The governor’s push for both a hike in the minimum wage and paid family leave faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, and business groups argue that both proposals would be burdensome for small business owners.
“This is a difficult proposal to get passed,” Cuomo said. “This would be the highest minimum wage in the country and rightfully so because New York is one of the most expensive states in the country and also because we believe in progressive politics and we believe in helping people do better.”