If Gov. Andrew Cuomo has his way, all New York's workers will earn at least $15 per hour.
Cuomo, a Democrat, announced his support Thursday for a plan to gradually increase the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour. Cuomo made the announcement at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, where he was joined by Vice President Joe Biden.
The new plan comes on the heels of Cuomo's recommendation to raise fast food workers' wages to $15 an hour, which the state Department of Labor accepted today.
Cuomo framed the broader increase as a strike against income inequality.
"An economy of the lucky and the left out, the haves and the have-nots, where if you’re born poor you will probably die poor -- that is not the American way,” he said.
"You cannot support a family on $18,000 a year in New York state, not to mention having a decent living," he added.
In an introduction, George Gresham, president of 1199 SEIU Healthcare Workers East, named the effort the "Mario Cuomo campaign for economic justice,” a nod to the progressive legacy of Gov. Cuomo's father.
"Mario Cuomo was right to be proud of the tremendous job his son has done for this state," Gresham told the crowd of largely union workers. "Something tells me that if he were here today, he’d be even more proud."
The increase would impact more than 2 million workers statewide, Cuomo said.
"That’s something great for people who work like me, hard workers, to make a little extra money,” Aurlelio Cuatliacuatl, a restaurant worker, told CBS New York before the announcement. The increase would add $200 to his paycheck each week, he said. “I have two kids -- a son and a daughter... it will be helpful for my family.”
Biden used the opportunity to trumpet White House efforts to raise the federal minimum to $12, taking the podium to make his case as the audience chanted "Run, Joe, Run!"
"We’re now on the cusp of a real [American economic] resurgence," he said. "We’ve created 13.1 million private sector jobs, unemployment is down to 5.1 percent. But there’s one big missing piece... to make this resurgence permanent. We need to address the single biggest issue facing our entire economy, and that’s stagnant wages.”
The White House has not come out on the issue of a $15 federal minimum.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement of support for the increase.
"Nothing would do more to lift New Yorkers out of poverty and move our economy forward than raising the wage," he said, adding that "New York City stands ready to help make it a reality."
Washington state currently has the highest minimum wage of $9.47 per hour, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It's set to be eclipsed by Rhode Island on Jan. 1, 2016, when the state bumps up its minimum to $9.60.