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Cuomo Raising Minimum Wage To $15 An Hour For State Workers As Rallies Held Nationwide

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- On the same day that hundreds of fast food, home care and other workers rallied in New York City in pressing for a more livable wage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office announced Tuesday the minimum wage for about 10,000 state employees will be increased to $15 an hour over the next six years.

The governor's office says that will initially affect about 1,000 office assistants, custodial workers and lifeguards in New York City, whose hourly wage will reach $15 by the end of 2018.

Another 9,000 employees upstate will see wages rise to that level three years later.

Speaking at a Lower Manhattan rally, the governor said his decision is part of a larger fight against poverty, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

"It's about basic fairness and basic justice," Cuomo said.

A state wage board recently agreed to increase the minimum wage for chain fast-food workers in annual increments to $15 by the end of 2018 in New York City and for others by July 1, 2021.

Cuomo also announced he will push for raising the wage for all workers to the same level over several years. New York's basic minimum wage is now $8.75 and is set to rise to $9 at year's end. 

Meanwhile Tuesday, there were 270 demonstrations scheduled nationwide calling for higher minimum wages. In New York City, rallies were held in Harlem, the Financial District and Brooklyn in support of efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15.

PHOTOS: Fight For $15

"We started out as a little spark, and the spark turned into a fire," demonstrator Alvin Major told 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa at a rally outside a McDonald's on West 125th Street.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a longtime supporter of the proposal, joined protesters at a pre-dawn rally in downtown Brooklyn.

"Is this the America we believe in? When someone works all day long and they still can't get by," de Blasio said. "Does anyone believe that it's easy to get by in New York City on less than $15 an hour?"

Joann Vitiello was in Brooklyn rallying on behalf of home care workers.

"Why should thet stay with us for 10 dollars an hour when they can make 15 dollars flipping burgers?" Vitello told CBS2's Alice Gainer.

Critics say a $15 minimum wage would obliterate opportunity and usher in higher taxes, but de Blasio said the opposite is true -- with more money to spend, low wage workers contribute more to the economy, WCBS 880's Paul Murnane reported.

"Every time there is a minimum wage increase proposed, we hear it's going to cost jobs and set back the economy. What happens in the end? The opposite," de Blasio said. "It actually improves the economy, it strengthens the economy, increases employment. Why? Because you need money in the economy for it to be strong."

A year from the presidential elections, demonstrators are hoping that presidential candidates will recognize the 16 million Americans who make less than $15 an hour as key voting block.

"Ten dollars an hour, can't do anything," home health worker Sonia Duncan told CBS2's Janelle Burrell. "Fifteen dollars an hour will go a good way."

"We need a living wage," said fast food worker Jorel Ware. "We want to be able to take care of our families."

"In 1998, I was making $9 an hour. Fifteen years later, I'm making 25 cents less than I did 18 years ago," said fast food worker Shawnatte Richardson.

With grandchildren to care for, Sabrina Montaleb is trying to get by on $10 as a home help aide.

"You do have to make choices," she said. "You have to have a roof over your head, and if you need to go to the doctor, you got to make that co-payment or whatever."

Nancy Flores makes $9 an hour working at a McDonald's in Hicksville, Long Island.

"I have three kids, so it's really, really hard to support them with minimum wage," Flores said. "It's really hard for me as a mom."

But while some say $15 is a minimum needed to survive, some business owners say dishing out more pay would leave them struggling to keep their doors open.

"We can't afford it, obviously we can't afford it," said restaurant owner Jay Wise. "Look at how many places are closed right now."

"Retail went down. It's not the same as last year or the year before. We're not doing the same amount as we did two years back," said Meena Rampershad, who owns a housewares store in Harlem. "Even the rent is high."

New York Senate Republicans oppose the minimum wage hike.

Sen. John Flanagan told reporters Tuesday in the Capitol that Cuomo's administrative move to establish a phased-in $15 minimum wage for chain fast-food workers is "executive overreach.''

His remarks followed a meeting of the Senate's majority Republicans behind closed doors while about 30 people demonstrated nearby in the Capitol for the higher wage.

(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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