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Cuomo Announces Push For $15 Statewide Minimum Wage

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to give New York state the highest minimum wage of any state in the nation – in a move so historic that he was joined by Vice President Joe Biden for the announcement.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the move was also so controversial that business leaders were already mobilizing for a fight late Thursday.

Appearing before an enthusiastic crowd of union workers at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Cuomo vowed to begin what he called a march for economic justice. A fight to get the minimum wage raised to $15 per hour for every worker in the state – almost double the current rate of $8.75.

"If you work full time, you shouldn't have to choose between paying the rent and buying food," Cuomo said. "If you work full time, you should not live a life in poverty, period."

Biden said economic inequality in the country has become the new normal, and that needs to end.

Cuomo Announces Push For $15 Statewide Minimum Wage

"Since '79, wages for the top 1 percent of America have grown 140 percent. For the bottom 90 percent, they've grown 15 percent," Biden said. "Back when Reagan was president, CEOs made 20 to 25 percent more than their average worker. Today, it's over 300 times. ... What happened here?"

"It generates loyalty to businesses," the vice president said of the higher minimum wage. "It increases productivity. It leads to less turnover, less cost, profits go up."

The move came as Cuomo announced the state Department of Labor on Thursday approved phasing in the $15 rate just for fast food workers. In New York City, the minimum wage will reach $15 in 2018, but in the rest of the state, it will take until 2021.

Raising the wage floor for everyone is controversial.

"That's something great for people who work like me, hard workers, to make a little extra money," said Aurlelio Cuatliacuatl, who works at Chelsea Square Restaurant.

Cuatliacuatl said he would make at least $200 more a week.

"I have two kids -- a son and a daughter," he said. "So it will be helpful for my family."

But business owners were none too enthusiastic. The owner of Fat Sal's Pizza in Hell's Kitchen said the wage hike could put him out of business, and said he would have no choice but to hike his prices to pay for the new salaries.

"A small business, with all other constraints that we have upon us, it's just not going to work," Wise said.

"Unless New York will be willing to pay five bucks, six bucks for their slices, which I doubt, there is just no way for this to work," he added.

In the New York state Legislature, which must pass the wage hike, the Assembly supports the legislation. But the Senate said caution is needed.

"Raising the wage floor in New York that far that fast could lead to unintended consequences such as severe job losses, and negatively impact many businesses who are already struggling just to keep their heads above water," said state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown).

The increase was recommended by an unelected, three-member Wage Board created by Cuomo.

Restaurant owners and some lawmakers say the raise is unfair and that Cuomo, who supports the increase, should not have circumvented the Legislature. The Senate planned to hold a hearing into the process Thursday.

But Biden said raising the minimum wage could set a nationwide trend.

"You're going to make every single governor in every state in America look at themselves," Biden said. "I mean it's going to have a profound impact; lead the way for the country."

An expert noted that a minimum wage hike to $15 is already happening elsewhere.

"I think it is likely there will be an increase in the minimum wage," Greg David with Crain's New York Business told WCBS 880's Sean Adams. "Places like Los Angeles are going to $15 an hour, places in Washington state are going to $15."

Cuomo Announces Push For $15 Statewide Minimum Wage

In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio said raising the minimum wage for all would lift New Yorkers out of poverty and move the economy forward.

"We welcome the governor's support for a $15 minimum wage -- and New York City stands ready to help make it a reality," the statement said, in part. "We have been doing all we can here in the city: affordable housing, Pre-K for all, increasing and expanding the living wage, and much more. But combating income inequality requires bold action on all levels of government. I urge Albany to act quickly."

The hike for fast food workers will be phased in over three years in New York City and over six years elsewhere in the state and will affect some 200,000 workers.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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