Small Business Owners, Local Unions, Workers, Rally Together

MIDDLETOWN – On Thursday, March 9th, the Raise Up NY Coalition and member For the Many rallied with Teamsters Joint Council 16, CWA Local 1120, minimum wage workers, and small business owners outside Middletown City Hall in support of the Raise the Wage Act (S1978A/A2204A), which would raise New York’s minimum wage to $21.25 by 2027 and index it to inflation. Speakers demanded that State Senator James Skoufis co-sponsor this critical piece of legislation. (After a press advisory was sent on Friday, Assemblymember Aileen Gunther relayed that she would co-sponsor the bill.)

High quality photos and videos of the event can be found here. A complete recording of the event is available on For the Many’s Facebook page. Captions for photos will be provided upon request.

The Raise the Wage Act is supported by 89% of Mid-Hudson Valley voters, more than any other region in the state. Statewide, that includes 89% of Democrats, 82% of Independents, and 65% of Republicans. Despite this, Skoufis is one of the last Hudson Valley Democrats not signed onto the legislation.

Upstate workers would stand to gain the most under this proposal; the upstate minimum wage only increased to $14.20 a few months ago. Raise the Wage would benefit 2.9 million New Yorkers, and put an average annual raise of $3,300 in their pockets, or an additional $63 per week. By comparison, Governor Hochul’s proposal—which would only index it to inflation—would increase wages by an average of barely $13 per week.

Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and Washington, D.C. are already raising their minimum wages to around $20 in response to the sky-rocketing cost of living and states like Massachusetts and Vermont are proposing the same. Raising the minimum wage to at least $21.25 by 2027 is necessary to help address the worst cost-of-living crisis New Yorkers have experienced in 40 years, and will have similar impacts as the Fight for $15—which substantially increased earnings without resulting in any job loss.

Five independent studies have found that New York’s 2016 legislation, which raised the minimum wage to $15, led to historic reductions in poverty and earnings inequality in New York without hurting job growth. In fact, both upstate and down, jobs in New York grew at least as fast, and in many cases faster, than they did in similar counties in states that didn’t raise the minimum wage during that period. Raising the minimum wage also boosted sales at local businesses across New York and helped businesses keep their employees, saving them recruitment and retention costs.

With weeks to go until the state budget is due, this is a critical moment for the Raise the Wage Act. For the Many and local unions are working with the Raise Up NY coalition to get this passed as part of the budget to meet the urgency of the moment.

“In the six years that I’ve organized in Middletown, I’ve worked with hundreds of residents and spoken to many minimum wage workers forced to take two or three jobs to make ends meet,” said Vanessa Cid, Community Organizer at For the Many and lifelong Middletown resident. “We are facing a housing crisis, utility bills are skyrocketing, and prices for groceries continue to rise—not to mention surprise medical bills and other emergencies that could arise. Governor Hochul’s plan indexes the minimum wage to inflation, but doesn’t give workers an immediate raise. We need Senator Skoufis to do what’s right and sign onto the Raise the Wage Act so everyone can afford to continue living here!”

“The cost of living has skyrocketed in the Hudson Valley over the last few years, but the minimum wage has been stuck,” said Dan Maldonado, President of Teamsters Local 445. “Corporations like Amazon are taking advantage to underpay local workers and undermine our working standards. We need the state legislature and the governor to pass the Raise the Wage Act and make sure that our working families get what they deserve.”

“The Amazon workers I talk with are smart—they know they are being ripped off,” said Antonio Rosario, Teamsters Local 804 organizer. “They know that Amazon can afford to pay them a living wage and that they aren’t getting what they’re worth. Most are looking for other jobs or working two jobs. But these jobs could be good career jobs instead of a revolving door. But for that to happen, they need better wages. We need to pass the Raise the Wage Act so workers can afford to continue working there and organize for the long-term.”

“There is nothing that will automatically rescue us from runaway inequality,” said Rob Pinto, Business Agent of CWA Local 1120. “But one thing we can do to remedy that inequality is passing Raise the Wage. As costs of living continue to rise across the board, workers shouldn’t be stuck making $14.20 an hour. We need Senator Skoufis to stand with us and workers across Orange County by co-sponsoring the Raise the Wage Act—before it’s too late.”

“I’m 100% in support of raising the minimum wage,” said Yvette Martinez, 1199 SEIU member and CAMI mental health technician, BSCH. “I’ve been working at Bon Secours Community Hospital in Port Jervis, NY for 26 years and I can identify with the issues of inflation while having a single household income. I can barely afford my monthly bills while rent, food, gas prices keep going up. I shouldn’t have to work and still struggle to pay my bills and rent. We as 1199 members worked hard to get Governor Hochul in office, and raising our minimum wage should be a priority on her list.”

“Last year, hundreds of unionized General Electric workers converged in Schenectady to demand better wages,” said Christian Gonzalez, IUE-CWA GE member and organizer. “Now, we’re taking our fight to Albany. The Raise the Wage Act would raise the minimum wage to $21.25 by 2027 and index it to inflation—workers can’t afford to wait another year for this critical relief.”

“I make $17.59 an hour, which is a bit more than the $14.20 minimum wage, but I still struggle to keep up with ever-increasing costs of living,” said Valerie White, an assisted living caregiver and Middletown resident. “We’re talking about food, shelter, utilities, gas, and medical co-payments. This is even with my Social Security. Raising the minimum wage to $21.25 would increase my earnings by $75 a week. That’s $300 a month! It must remain tied to cost of living increases as they come in, or else it does us no good. We’re asking our legislators to support us in this effort to allow us to earn a respectable living wage.”

“I own a thrift store in downtown Middletown and I support the Raise the Wage Act,” said Zoila Collado, owner of Zoila Thrift Store. “Even as a small business owner, I have been impacted by rising costs of living—my husband and I have seen prices at the grocery store rise dramatically. I hear stories all the time of people in Middletown looking for good-paying jobs but not finding any. A higher minimum wage means my customers will have more money to spend in my store, which benefits everyone!”

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