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Minimum wage

Protestors gather at the Huntington train station on Monday afternoon. Photo from Michael Pauker

Protestors are no longer minding the gap when it comes to the state’s minimum wage.

Protestors flocked to the Huntington Long Island Rail Road station during the evening rush hour on Monday in support of an increase in the state minimum wage.

The group also hit several other North Shore train stations in areas where state senators have not yet committed to supporting New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) proposal for a $15-per-hour minimum wage.

“This state thrives when every New Yorker has the opportunity and the ability to succeed,” Cuomo said in a statement in support of his minimum wage hike from $9 per hour. “Yet the truth is that today’s minimum wage still leaves far too many people behind — unacceptably condemning them to a life of poverty even while they work full-time. This year, we are going to change that. We are going to raise the minimum wage to bring economic opportunity back to millions of hardworking New Yorkers and lead the nation in the fight for fair pay.”

A protestor raises a sign on the platform. Photo from Michael Pauker
A protestor raises a sign on the platform. Photo from Michael Pauker

Members of the group Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, organized the protests with hopes of putting pressure on North Shore lawmakers.

“We’re making a splash during rush hour today to remind our state senators that the economic security of millions of New Yorkers is in their hands,” Rachel Ackoff, senior national organizer at Bend the Arc, said in an email. “Our state and country are facing an economic inequality crisis and raising the minimum wage is essential to help countless families get by and strengthen our economy.”

As for why the group chose to protest at train stations, Ackoff said it is a common ground for all walks of life.

“LIRR stations are the central meeting grounds of thousands of workers heading to and from their jobs each day,” she said. “We appreciated the cheers and thumbs up of the folks we encountered.”

Ackoff said many New York workers who are not making the minimum wage are struggling to support families.

“We’re so outraged by the fact that so many parents in our state, who are working full times jobs on the current minimum wage, aren’t even paid enough to provide for their families’ basic needs,” she said. ““It’s time for our state leaders to take action.”

She zeroed in on specific North Shore lawmakers, including state Sens. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), and Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa).

A protestor speaks to a passenger at the Huntington train station. Photo from Michael Pauker
A protestor speaks to a passenger at the Huntington train station. Photo from Michael Pauker

Marcellino, who presides over parts of Huntington, did not return a call for a comment.

Bend the Arc has several chapters across the country, and this year, they launched #JewsFor15 a campaign to support the fight for $15, by mobilizing Jewish communities across the country to support local and state campaigns to increase the minimum wage. They said they feel not supporting the $15-per-hour minimum wage is a violation of fundamental values as both Jews and Americans.

“By speaking up for the ‘Fight for $15 movement,’ we are honoring the legacy of our Jewish ancestors, many of whom immigrated to the U.S. at the turn of the century, worked in factories, and fought for higher wages and union rights,” Ackoff said.

Eric Schulmiller, of the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore in Manhasset, echoed the sentiment while speaking at the Hicksville train station.

“I’m here today because striving for social justice is a core part of my identity as a faith leader and a core part of Jewish communal traditions,” he said. “Jews have been engaged in America’s social justice movements for generations and we’re not about stand on the sidelines now, when countless American families are struggling to make ends meet and economic inequality is growing more and more severe.”

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Vecchio memo puts end to weeks-long discussion over councilman’s plan to pay workers $9 an hour

Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Some Smithtown seasonal employees will have a little extra weight added to their wallets next year, but only by about 25 cents.

In a memo sent to the Town Board, Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) had made official the town’s commitment to including a minimum wage increase in the tentative 2016 budget for part-time summer positions. The discussion over whether or not to raise the minimum wage from $8.75 had been ongoing for several weeks since Councilman Bob Creighton (R) had introduced the proposal via a resolution at a recent Town Board meeting, but a disagreement over protocol had blocked the plan.

Creighton first brought the proposal to the board in August, but Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) floated a motion to table the proposal, which was unanimously approved.

The measure reappeared on the agenda at an early September Smithtown Town Board meeting and Nowick once again voted to table the discussion, drawing 3-2 split from councilmembers, with support from Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) and Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R).

“This doesn’t mean I am not in support of this,” Nowick said at the meeting after motioning to table the plan. “I want to look at the budget, which is not due for another 30 days or so.”

McCarthy, who voted in favor of tabling the discussion alongside Nowick and Vecchio, said in a phone interview earlier this month that he was in favor of raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour for the town’s seasonal workers, but believed it should be put into the budget. He also said he and his fellow councilmembers had full intentions of seeing the raise put into effect through the budget.

Creighton said the 25-cent raise for the town’s roughly 150 seasonal workers making $8.75 an hour would ultimately cost roughly $23,000, which he said could be factored into the budget now so the budget process could react accordingly.

Wehrheim said at the time that he was concerned with the way the procedure went through, given the fact that the councilmembers who voted against the resolution had weeks since it was last tabled to voice their concerns regarding its financial impact on the town.

Over the last several months, Smithtown resolutions for municipal hires showed workers being hired at rates anywhere from as low as $8 to as high as $16 per hour. The town, however, is not legally bound to abide by a minimum wage.

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McCarthy, Nowick, Vecchio vote again to table Creighton’s proposal to pay seasonal workers $9 an hour

Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

A previously tabled motion to increase the minimum wage for Smithtown employees was sidelined once again, and the town board is at odds over the reasoning behind it.

Councilman Bob Creighton (R) had initially proposed, at a work session in August, to raise the town’s minimum wage from $8.75 to $9 per hour as of April 2016, but Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) later floated a motion to table the proposal, which was unanimously approved. The measure reappeared on Tuesday’s Smithtown Town Board meeting agenda and Nowick once again voted to table the discussion, drawing 3-2 split from councilmembers, with support from Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) and Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R).

“This doesn’t mean I am not in support of this,” Nowick said, in justifying her decision to table the proposal a second time, after Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) had publicly asked her to explain her decision. “I want to look at the budget, which is not due for another 30 days or so.”

In a phone interview, Creighton said he was caught off guard by the decision to table the proposal a second time, and the councilwoman’s explanation to wait for the budget process early next month bewildered him.

“It does not seem to be a justification, in my mind, for postponing the vote,” said Creighton, who, along with Wehrheim, voted against Nowick’s motion to table the proposal for a second time. “You’re either for it or against it.”

Creighton said the 25-cent raise for the town’s roughly 150 seasonal workers making $8.75 an hour — would ultimately cost roughly $23,000, which he said could be factored into the budget now so the budget process could react accordingly.

“The actions of those three are asinine,” Creighton said. “It’s an insult to the kids who are working hard in this town.”

Wehrheim said he was concerned with the way the procedure went through, given the fact that the councilmembers who voted against the resolution had weeks since it was last tabled to voice their concerns regarding its financial impact on the town. He said the $9 minimum wage proposal was not only in line with state law, but was also run by Vecchio, Comptroller Donald Musgnug and the town’s personnel department, which he said validated the proposal.

“Not one word was uttered about any intention to table that resolution,” Wehrheim said. “The time to have that discussion was certainly at our work session. I know Councilwoman Nowick said she’d rather look at the budget first, but there is no reason to. I don’t think it’s fair to the public.”

Musgnug had no comment on the matter. But Vecchio later said Creighton’s resolution was a politically motivated decision, as most town workers were already making more than $9.

Over the last several months, Smithtown resolutions for municipal hires showed workers being hired at rates anywhere from as low as $8 to as high as $16 per hour. The town, however, is not legally bound to abide by a minimum wage.

McCarthy, who voted in favor of tabling the discussion alongside Nowick and Vecchio, said in a phone interview that he was in favor of raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour for the town’s seasonal workers, but believed it should be put into the budget. He also said he and his fellow councilmembers had full intentions of seeing the raise put into effect through the budget.

McCarthy said everyone on the board was ultimately in favor of raising the minimum wage, but they disagreed over how to implement the change.

“Going up to $9 is not a problem,” McCarthy said. “But the process is not putting it into a resolution. We’ve never done that before, ever. I tabled it because I will be putting it into the budget myself, definitely.”

In a similar instance last year, McCarthy had put forward a successful 3-2 resolution to increase the salary of the deputy supervisor — his own position — by $30,000, but ultimately rescinded the decision and said he would rather see that call come via the budgeting process. The raise was later included in the 2015 budget and passed.

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The town board discusses a resolution added to a meeting agenda. Photo by Phil Corso

A Smithtown councilman is proposing to raise the minimum wage for town employees, but the discussion has been tabled for future consideration.

Town Councilman Bob Creighton (R) initially proposed to have a minimum wage resolution be added to the agenda to last Tuesday afternoon’s town board meeting, which would effectively set the minimum wage at $9 per hour as of April 1, 2016.

The motion was met with skepticism, and Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) moved to table the proposal for a future date, which the board unanimously approved.

Over the last several months Smithtown resolutions for municipal hires showed workers being hired at rates anywhere from as low as $8 and as high as $16 per hour. The town, however, is not legally bound to abide by a minimum wage.

Creighton could not be reached for comment. The discussion will be revisited at a later town board session.

Anne Shybunko-Moore, CEO of GSE Dynamics, New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales and Keith Barrett, president of Huntington Station Business Improvement District, speak last week. Photo from Laz Benitez

A state plan to raise the minimum wage made its way to Hauppauge to show how higher pay could impact close to home.

Cesar Perales, secretary of state under Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), spoke at GSE Dynamics on Oser Avenue March 18 outlining the governor’s proposal to capitalize on New York’s economic recovery by raising the minimum wage from $8.75 to $10.50.

Perales said the state has already created more than 500,000 new private sector jobs since the big recession — the second most in the country. But at the same time, wages have not grown fast enough and people are being left behind, he alleged.

“We had a bad few years after the recession in 2008, but we are out of it now and we are moving forward,” he said. “Unemployment is down and, in every region of the state, jobs are up.”

Cuomo’s plan calls for a $10.50 minimum wage across the state, except for New York City, where he suggests the minimum wage be increased to $11.50. In total, he said more than 1.35 million workers would see a wage increase throughout the state, bringing a direct economic impact of nearly $3.4 billion.

“The minimum wage should allow people who work full-time jobs to support themselves and their families – but that is just not possible today,” Cuomo said. “Our proposal will help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers better sustain themselves and live with dignity and respect. The State Legislature must pass our proposal this year, because the sweetest success is shared success and we won’t rest until we are all rising together.”

During four of the five recent increases in the state’s minimum wage dating back to 1991, data indicated an employment uptick each time the wage went up, Perales said.

“Under this plan, nearly 150,000 workers here in Long Island will see a pay raise,” he said. “In a family with two earners, the increase from $8.75 to $10.50 translates to more than $7,000 in additional income per year.”

The proposal said Long Island currently sees 85,264 total minimum-wage workers earning $8.75 today. But under the new plan, 202,248 Long Island workers would earn the minimum wage, bringing a direct economic value of $382.3 million to the island, Cuomo said.

Perales spoke alongside Keith Barrett, president of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District as well as Anne Shybunko-Moore, CEO of Hauppauge’s GSE Dynamics, to explain how higher minimum wages could bring better business to the North Shore.

“Raising the minimum wage is not just about money, it’s about opportunity,” Perales said. “It’s about saying that everyone who works a full-time job should have the chance to live a decent life and put food on the table for themselves and their loved ones. Because at the end of the day, we are all part of the same community and the same state, and we are at our best when we all do well together.”