In the wake of yesterday's Fighting for $15 minimum wage demonstrations, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman points out how Gov. Andrew Cuomo has the power to raise the minimum wage by occupation. Seems like he's just thrown a grenade into Cuomo's lap!
On Tuesday, my office announced the latest in a string of enforcement actions against unscrupulous employers who cheat their employees out of wages, tips and overtime. Since I took office in January 2011, we’ve recovered more than $20 million for 17,000 workers.
Morally bankrupt wage practices and laws cannot hold. Enforcement actions by my office and others are having an impact, and pressure is building: Wednesday, fast-food workers across the country protested against unconscionably low minimum wages that leave even fully paid employees below the poverty line, unable to support themselves and their families.
We must use every tool at our disposal to lift the living standards of low-wage employees. Here in the Empire State — birthplace of historic labor reforms enacted by Gov. Al Smith in the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire — a 55-year-old provision of our Labor Law creates the opportunity to overcome gridlock and provide a more livable wage for our most hard-pressed workers.
While the statewide minimum wage is set by the Legislature and the governor, state law endows the state’s commissioner of labor with the authority to investigate and increase the minimum wage for any occupation if the commissioner determines that a substantial number of employees “are receiving wages insufficient to provide adequate maintenance and to protect their health.”
The law spells out in detail how the commissioner must proceed, beginning with convening a “Wage Board” to investigate and make recommendations about wage levels.