This is turning into something of a bad habit in New York. Last year we saw the Empire State’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, unilaterally push through a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour only for certain fast food workers. In November – once again without the consent or cooperation of the legislature – Cuomo moved toward a similar measure for state employees. This week, with even more curious restrictions and exceptions, the Governor announced that he would be doing the same for tens of thousands of employees at the State University of New York (SUNY).
Gov. Cuomo played the progressive champion Monday at a union rally in Midtown, announcing he would extend the $15 minimum wage to 28,000 employees of SUNY.
CUNY quickly said it planned to follow suit.
“This is an issue of values and principles and conscience, and somewhere along the way, we’ve lost that equation in this country,” Cuomo declared before cheering union members at the 1199/SEIU health-care workers’ headquarters in Times Square.
The announcement was made in front of a rally for SEIU union members, of course, since they are the base of Cuomo’s political power and stand to benefit the most from his generosity with the taxpayers’ dollars. But yet again it wasn’t an across the board raise to be done all at once. In one of the most blatantly political maneuvers seen in an already shockingly biased and slanted administration, Cuomo said that the raise would go into full effect for SUNY workers in New York City by 2018, but not for those in the upstate counties until 2021. (I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that he’s up for election again in 2018.)
The state GOP (which holds very little actual power and is generally dysfunctional at best) didn’t have much to say, but another conservative group was quick to react with a strongly worded letter.
“Since Gov. Cuomo is so dependent on the big labor unions to advance his political career, it’s no surprise to see them cash in with his support for their plan to expand membership rolls and profit by millions through their ‘Fight for $15’ campaign,” said Brian Rogers, executive director of America Rising.
“The consequences are all too real for the hardworking New Yorkers who will have to foot the bill, costing jobs and diminishing opportunity at a time they need it most.”
All of this seems to leave unanswered one of the fundamental questions here. How does the Governor seem to get away with this many stunts using nothing more than the pen and the phone, as the President would say? Is the state minimum wage – particularly when it comes to state workers whose salaries are funded by the taxpayers – not clearly a matter for the legislature to decide? Never mind the fact that those not in politically favored groups don’t benefit from the Governor’s largess and that many other low income workers will wind up losing their jobs.
I’m beginning to wonder if Andrew Cuomo hasn’t taken that whole Empire State moniker a little too seriously. The man apparently thinks himself an emperor now.