CNY: New Push For $15 Minimum Wage At State-Contracted Nonprofits

New Push For $15 Minimum Wage At State-Contracted Nonprofits

Advocates call for state subsidies, but let de Blasio off the hook after the city lifted its minimum to $11.50 an hour

By Rosa Goldensohn  Crain’s New York  December 10, 2015


Caseworkers, early childhood teachers and child welfare agents contracted by the state want the same $15 an hour from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that state employees and fast-food workers got.


Cuomo is already pushing for the legislature to pass an across-the-board minimum wage hike to $15, but wouldn't need a new law to satisfy the nonprofit workers' request.


"He can take action on his own," said Jennifer Jones Austin, a close ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio's and a leader of the new wage push. "We'd like to see this in the governor's State of the State [speech in January]."


A coalition led by the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, headed by Jones Austin, says state subsidies would be needed for nonprofits to pay the $15 minimum. The group did not call on Wednesday for a $15 minimum for nonprofit employees working under de Blasio administration deals, even though more social-services staffers under city contracts make less than $15 an hour than under state contracts—at least 30,000 people, according to Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission.


A federation spokeswoman said her group asked the city in late 2014 for the same $15 wage, and that de Blasio raised it to $11.50 an hour for workers at city-funded nonprofits. The mayor also allocated $5 million for a career-pathways program and a 2.5% cost-of-living adjustment for contracted social-services workers. Pleased with those measures, the coalition turned its attention to the Cuomo administration, the spokeswoman said, adding that it is continuing to advocate for further increases at the city level.


But if the state hikes wages to $15 an hour and the city follows suit, the expense would be "significant," Kellermann said.


"The cost of increasing all of them to that level would be substantial," said the longtime budget watchdog. "These are costs the agencies themselves could not absorb, so the city would have to commit to covering these costs, which would mean a significant new city expense on a recurring basis."


New York hires roughly 40,000 to 50,000 employees at 2,500 human-services nonprofits at a cost of $1.5 billion, according to a report from the coalition. About half of them make less than $15 an hour, James Parrott from the Fiscal Policy Institute estimates.


The proposal calls for a six-year phase-in of the pay raise. It would cost the state about $60 million to $70 million in its first year, according to Parrott, and $250 million to $300 million annually after that.