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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Andrew Cuomo
ALBANY, NY -- Earlier Tuesday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at a “Fight for $15” rally on the Empire State Plaza in Albany. The Governor rallied with various labor leaders, elected officials, clergy members and advocacy organizations to voice support for his proposal to raise the minimum wage.

Transcript of the Governor's remarks in its entirety:

“Thank you. Do we have Hector Figueroa and 32BJ in the house? Do we have HTC in the house? Do we have Stuart Appelbaum and RWDSU in the house? Do we have George Gresham and 1199 in the house? You see that big RV behind me? It’s supposed to be painted red and blue and white but it came out pink. But that’s alright. George and I have been in that RV driving all over the state for weeks bringing this message to people all across the state. I feel the energy growing and I feel the momentum growing and we’re going to get a $15 minimum wage passed.

Now, this is going on in a bigger context, right? This is not just about Albany now. You turn on the TV and you see it is 24-hour politics all day long. You turn on the TV, you see that little countdown clock. You’re 20 minutes from one debate and you’re 15 minutes from the next debate. All of this politics is getting ugly and the talking heads say, “Well you know what? People are angry and that’s what the politicians are feeling. They’re feeling the people’s anger and the politicians are trying to determine how to use the anger.” People are angry. And you know what, people should be angry. Why? Because the working man and the working women of this state and this country have been going backwards for decades, my friends. That’s why. Because if you are the middle class and if you’re a working family, you don’t feel like you’re getting ahead. You don’t see a brighter future, you don’t feel the mobility. The bills keep getting bigger and the paycheck keeps getting smaller and you don’t know how you’re going to make it. So yes, people are angry.

But the question becomes, what do you do with that anger? And some politicians want to use that anger. They want to use that fear for political purposes and they take that fear and they take that anger and they create a target for that anger. They say, “I’ll tell you what the problems are. The problem is caused by people who are different.” That’s what they say. You know, people who are different, people who have different skin colors, people with different languages, people who come from different countries. They try to make that the problem. They try to make diversity and immigration the problem.

And then their solution is very simple: we make a long list of all the people who are different – all of the immigrants – and then we go out and collect them all off the list and then we kick them out of the country. And then what we do is we build a big wall so they can’t come back. And what they say is, “We don’t just build a big wall, we build a really, really big wall. I mean we build a wall that makes the Wall of China look like a small wall. And we’ll build a wide wall and a tall wall and a beautiful wall. We’ll put a little gold trim at the top just to have a nice looking wall.” That’s what they’re trying to say.

They’re trying to say, “Demonize the differences. Demonize the diversity. Demonize immigrants. If we fix that problem and kick them out, then everything will be solved. The want to take that energy and use it politically. We say the exact opposite. We say, “Don’t try to turn us one against the other. Don’t try to take that energy and make it negative. We’re going to take that energy and we’re going to make it positive.” The way you make it positive is you say, “What’s causing the problem and let’s solve it.” What’s causing the problem is economic injustice and working men and working women being exploited and going backwards decade after decade after decade and we’ve had enough and we want fairness and we want respect and we want dignity.

That’s what this is about. It starts – it starts with the minimum wage. Why? Because Franklin Delano Roosevelt, great Governor of New York, lived in that house right down the block. He became President of the United States. He passed the minimum wage law. You know what he said? The minimum wage law should pay people a salary that pays a decent living. A decent living. Why? Because we respect the work that people do. Whatever you do, we respect that you do it and we give you dignity for doing it and a decent lifestyle. Today, the minimum wage in New York is $9 per hour. You know what? You can’t live on $9 an hour and have a decent life. That’s why we want to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour - $30,000 a year so people can afford a decent lifestyle in this state.

Now, you’re going to hear from the opponents, “Oh, we can’t raise the minimum wage.” “Why?” “Well, that’ll be bad for the economy.” First of all, in this state we have the downstate economy; we have the Upstate economy. They’re different. We’ve taken that into consideration. In our plan, we have a phase in plan for Upstate New York. Second, no one is more concerned about Upstate New York than I am. I have invested more in Upstate New York than any Governor in the history of the state of New York and I feel good about that. That’s not what is fueling the opponents. You know what’s fueling the opponents? They’re representing the corporations and the corporations don’t want to pay a higher wage. It is that simple. I’ll tell you the real taxpayer scam. Listen to this one. You work for the minimum wage, a place like McDonald’s. You make about $18,000 a year at McDonald’s on minimum wage. In this state, $18,000 you’re still below poverty. You can be a full-time worker at McDonald’s and you still qualify for welfare benefits from the state of New York. Average welfare benefits for a full-time McDonald’s worker – food stamps, welfare, et cetera – $7,000 a year we pay. Look what happens: McDonald’s pays $18,000 to a worker. The state of New York pays $7,000 to that worker. That’s how the worker gets by – taxpayers of New York wind up subsidizing McDonald’s workers all across this state. Why are we subsidizing private employees in corporations who don’t want to pay a fair working wage?

The second thing, once we get minimum wage, the second pillar we need – because we have two priorities – we want decent pay and then we want decent treatment. And decent treatment means we don’t want to be abused by the employer anymore. And decent treatment means people have a right to live their lives with decency, and we don’t live at work, we live at home. And there are obligations at home. And sometimes a person is sick or a loved one is sick and you have to stay at home with a loved one who is sick. Sometimes, god forbid, you have to be at home with a loved one who is dying and you want to be there at home with a loved one who is dying. Sometimes its good news, and a lady has a baby – she has a right to stay home and bond with that new child; the husband has a right to stay home and bond with that child. And we want paid family leave for 12 weeks so people can stay home and honor their family commitment. And we need the family leave paid. Because people can’t afford to take 12 weeks and stay home without a paycheck. And that’s why 12 weeks of paid family leave, restore decency, restore fairness.

That’s what this battle is about in New York. And it’s the battle that is in the same context of what’s going on nationwide. And what we’re saying to the legislature in Albany is we’re at a fork in the road. And you have to make a choice. And people are angry. And you can either take that energy to a positive place or a negative place. You can either continue to sew fear and sew hate, or you can restore dignity and fairness for all. We say to them “you want to build walls? We want to build bridges.” Because that’s who we are. They think the strongest four letter words are fear and hate. We think the strongest four letter words are hope and love. That’s who we are. They say they want to make America great again. We say you don’t know what makes America great in the first place. This is what makes America great. Black and white and Latinos, all together. Asian Americans, Italian Americans, Jewish Americans, Muslims, Christians, all together. This is what makes America great. Don’t tell us about diversity. We live diversity. We celebrate diversity. We’re not afraid of our differences. We live our differences.

We’re going to pass minimum wage. We’re going to pass paid family leave. We’re going to restore dignity and justice and show this nation the way to go forward is to go forward together. That’s what New York is all about. Thank you. We’re going to make it happen. 1199 and George Gresham, give them a round of applause. The healthcare workers. The voice of labor. The AFL-CIO. Thank you and god bless you.”

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