January 4, 2016
Albany, NY

Video, Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces $15 Minimum Wage For State University Employees

Video, Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces $15 Minimum Wage For State University Employees

Governor Cuomo unveiled the first signature proposal of his 2016 agenda – his push to restore economic justice by making New York the first state in the nation to enact a $15 minimum wage for all workers. While highlighting this proposal, the Governor announced that the State University of New York will raise the minimum wage for more than 28,000 employees. This increase for SUNY employees will mirror the phased-in schedule for fast food workers secured last year, as well as State Workers announced in October.

The Governor made this announcement at a rally in New York City, where he was joined by US Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, Actor Steve Buscemi, and a number of elected officials, labor leaders and advocates. More information is available here.

VIDEO of the press conference is available in TV-quality (h264, mp4) format here and on YouTube here.

AUDIO of the Governor’s remarks is available here.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:

“Thank you. Thank you. Do we have anyone from 1199 in the house today? Do we have anyone from SEIU in the house today? Do we have anyone who loves George Gresham in the house today?

First, to Héctor Figueroa. Héctor Figueroa, who in many ways birthed this movement. What he’s done with the fast food workers, the airport workers. Let’s give him a big round of applause. To our great Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Let’s give him a round of applause. To Steve Buscemi who is a great activist –but he is always there when we call on him. He is always there to bring attention to an issue. Thank you Steve Buscemi, for everything you do. To Lisa Johnson, who is a great homecare worker. Thank her. And to the Chairman of the SUNY system, Carl McCall and to Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. Give them a big round of applause – I’ll tell you why in a moment. And to Secretary Perez. Secretary Perez. Give him a round of applause.

First, being a Secretary is a very big deal. You don’t appreciate it here in New York because you think a Secretary is supposed to be typing or something like that. That is not what it means on the federal side. Under the Clinton Administration, I was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and I was coming up from Washington once. My father was Governor of the State of New York. I was with the Vice President coming up on the plane and we were going to do an even in New York and my father was going to be there. And the Vice President, Al Gore, who never really got a chance to communicate who he was, because he was a delightful, funny fellow. He said on the plane, “I have a great idea. Let’s tell you father, as a matter of protocol, Secretary is higher than Governor.”

Now I didn’t say anything, but my father was not a playful kind of guy. My father – a lot of things he was, but playful he wasn’t. So we get to the event and we get to the back room before we go out to the event and the Vice President goes up to my father. And the Vice President, who always looks serious, goes up to my father and says, “You know Governor, there is a protocol of office. And Andrew is Secretary, which makes him in line of succession to the President, which means as a matter of protocol, he is a higher official than the Governor of the State of New York.”

My father looked at him and said nothing. It got a little awkward. The Vice President said, “Well, on the speaking order, I think we should arrange it by protocol.” My father looked right at him and said, “I don’t really give [something George would say] about your protocol. This is my state. I’m speaking where I want to speak, or you can just leave right now.

I was afraid he was going to invite the Vice President to play basketball. Because when my father wanted to hurt you, he played basketball with you. I did this playing basketball with my brother because my brother wanted to hurt me. But I won anyway so, the joke's on my brother.

But Secretary Perez, he has carried the gospel, he has fought the good fight. He's a New York boy from Buffalo. We are so proud that he is in Washington. We are so proud he's our champion. Secretary Perez thank you for being here.

You know George said this is not rocket science. This is not rocket science, but in today's society I think it’s almost harder than rocket science. Why? Because this is an issue of values, and principle, and morals, and conscience and somewhere along the way we've lost that equation in this country. We've forgot our sense of values and decency and what we believe and what made us who we are and what we stand up for.

Yesterday, I announced an initiative where we're going to reach out to the homeless brothers and sisters who are on the street. Why? It's getting even colder now, frigid weather is coming in. To leave people on the street, we have to do everything we can to reach out to them and bring them into a shelter. Homeless people don’t want to go into a shelter. Why? Because it's dirty, it's unsafe. So they're staying out on the street, meanwhile we're paying $1 billion per year as taxpayers to pay for a shelter system and the homeless say, “We're afraid to go into it” and this is just not right. It's just not right. So I'm with the reporters and they ask, 'Why are we doing this?' or 'Why should we do this?' I said because it's not right to leave brothers and sisters on the street corner. It's not right to leave children on the street corner. It's not right to have a shelter system that is so dirty and unsafe, that people have to stay on the street corner. That's the only reason. It's not right. It’s not rocket science, it's harder. It's values, it's what you believe, it's who you are, it's what you believe as a community. It’s what's in here that matters.

We named this campaign for Mario Cuomo and by the way George, just to be clear because you got me nervous before, I named the campaign for Mario Cuomo, that is true. George is in charge. If anything goes wrong, my father's coming down and it's your heinie that is on the line. Just so we're clear. But why the Mario Cuomo campaign? Because Mario Cuomo was not about rocket science. He was about values. He was about decency. He was about priorities. He was about principles and that is this this issue today. There is still a right and wrong in society, my friends. There is still a fair and there is still an unfair in society and it's not always about the equation. It’s about what your heart says, it's about what your values say, it's about what you think and believe when you celebrate the holidays and you pray to whoever you pray to. It's about how we institutionalize those values and when you get to a point as a society where you have this type of income inequality. Highest income inequality in history.

The top richest of the rich are making the most money. Top one percent making 95 percent of the wealth. It’s just wrong. It’s just wrong. And then, on the other hand, you abuse the worker and you take advantage of the worker and you pay them a minimum wage that is not a minimum wage that is forcing them to choose between paying rent and food. You are doing the wrong thing as a society.

Now, the minimum wage means something. It’s not an expression. The minimum wage was signed into law by a great governor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, great governor of the State of New York, appointed Frances Perkins, great progressive. This is what he said when he signed the minimum law, “By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level. I mean the wages of a decent living.” The wages of a decent living.

The minimum wage doesn’t even work numerically in this state. Minimum wage is about $18,000 a year, food costs about $9,000 a year, rent is about $11,000 a year, clothing is about $6,000 a year. The numbers don’t even add up. And forget about a decent living. Forget about having time to spend with the kids. A real weekend, a real vacation, a real place we can provide for an education. This is below a subsistence level. You can’t make it on a minimum wage job. You need two, three, four minimum wage jobs to actually make it, and that’s not what the minimum wage was all about.

Talk about fair. What fair would have been, was to take the minimum wage and index it to a rate like inflation, so it went up over time. If you had taken the minimum wage in 1970, and you had indexed it to inflation, you know what it would be today? $15 an hour. That’s the fair wage for a minimum wage in the State of New York. Now, the opponents are going to say this – and there are going to be a lot of them – and they are going to say, “Well, look, this violates conservative theory.” Why? Because conservatives say, “You can’t tamper with the marketplace.” That the private sector companies in the marketplace are no place for government. And you should stay out of the marketplace and the marketplace will decide who gets paid what. And let people earn money on their own and the stronger and the better and the higher they will go. And if they are not working, then well, they stay at the bottom. Government shouldn’t regulate the marketplace. That is a lot of baloney – that’s what that is. That is a lot of baloney.

You know what they are trying to do? They are trying to justify the minimum wage for two reasons: Number one, it costs businesses less money, and number two, businesses makes money on the minimum wage. How can that be? They make money on the minimum wage. Listen to this, McDonalds pays a minimum wage, but at the minimum wage in this state, you are still below the poverty level. So this state then, with tax dollars, gives you a welfare payment, food stamp payment, housing assistance. When you look at it at the end of the day, McDonalds pays the minimum wage and the people of the State of New York pay on average $6,800 more. $6,800 more. McDonalds pays $18,000, the State of New York pays $6,800 more. We are subsidizing the McDonalds workforce. McDonalds makes billions of dollars a year because they are underpaying their workers, the difference is made up by the state government through welfare payments and we are subsidizing their stock and their stock price. That is why they don’t want to raise the minimum wage. They don’t want the businesses to pay the fair wage, they want the tax payers to pay the fair wage. Well I am getting out of the hamburger business, let McDonalds pay for their own workers, let the fast food workers have a decent wage because we are done being abused as a workforce so that we can subsidize the richest corporations in this country. That is not going to happen.

Now, George posed the right question. George wants to know how we are going to win, because we have to get this done and because George does not want to be dancing with my old man, I’ll promise you that. And we have a two-pronged strategy.
First, we are chipping away at it. We’re making a little progress, a little progress, a little progress. It was Vince Lombardi, three yards, four yards every down. We started with the fast food workers who now have an increase in their minimum wage as a group. That is done, that we could do by executive authority of the governor. We then said we were going to take the entire state work force and we are going to bring $15 to the New York State work force. Today, Chairman Carl McCall, Chancellor Nancy Zimpher announce their bringing the minimum wage, $15 an hour, to the SUNY schools and the SUNY work force all across this state. We are going to continue that track more and more. Reaching out to other businesses, reaching out to other government officials, asking them to come on board, asking controller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Lettisha James, bring the City of New York with us. Join this crusade. That is track one.

Track two is we are going to go to that New York State Legislature and we are going to win this battle the old fashioned way. We are going to knock on doors, we are going to make phone calls, we are going to say to elected officials, “there are 3 million New Yorkers who need a raise, you vote against $15, you vote against the 3 million New Yorkers who need it.” We are going to make sure those workers in your district know who voted for them, who is with them, who is against them, we are going to do it for the State of New York, we are going to lead the way for this nation, we are going to restore honor and dignity and respect to the workers, we are going to say to this country, “You can do very well on the top level and you can also rise up the bottom level.”

That is what New York is all about. We are going to get the labor movement, Gary LaBarbera, Mario Cilento, Héctor Figueroa, 1199, Peter Ward. We are going to go out there from one end of the state to the other and we are not going to stop until we win and $15 becomes a reality in New York and we point the way forward for this nation.

Thank you and God bless you.”

Contact the Governor's Press Office

NYC Press Office: 212.681.4640

Albany Press Office: 518.474.8418