Regional News

March 10, 2016

Central New York Chapter of NYSARA leads on the fight for $15


Jerry Lotierzo, chairman of the Central New York Fight for $15 Coalition and co-chair of the Central New York Chapter of NYSARA, speaks at a rally on Sunday, March 6, 2016 outside St. Lucy’s Church on Gifford Street in Syracuse, about the difficulties low-wage workers have feeding their families and paying their bills. Next to Lotierzo is Colleen Deacon, a Democratic candidate seeking the party’s nomination to run for the 25th Congressional District seat in 2016. Deacon and two other Democratic candidates for the seat, Steve Williams and Eric Kingson, were among 25 people taking a minimum wage challenge, pledging to try to live on $97 a week beginning March 7. (Mike McAndrew |, N.Y. — Twenty-five Syracuse area politicians, union organizers and others pledged Sunday to try to survive on $360 this week to increase pressure on state lawmakers to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The minimum wage challenge is being organized across New York this month by the Service Employees International Union to back Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to gradually hike the minimum wage from $9 to $15.

The participants in the minimum wage challenge – who include Syracuse City Councilor Helen Hudson, Democratic congressional candidates Colleen Deacon, Eric Kingson, and Steve Williams, and DeWitt Councilors Kerin Rigney and Sam Young – pledged to try to live on $9 an hour for five days, beginning Monday.

After deducting $263 for taxes, housing and utilities from their $360 budget, they have $97 left to spend on food, transportation and everything else for the week.

Carlita Adamy Talks About Surviving On Minimum Wage
Solvay resident Carlita Adamy earns $14 an hour as a driver for Loretto. Her husband is paid $9 an hour – the state minimum – making pizzas for a restaurant. They have two children, including Logan, who stood next to her at a rally Sunday, March 6…

The participants agreed to shop for groceries as if they can only afford what minimum wage workers can buy, limit their total expenses to $19 a day (excluding prior unavoidable bills for housing, autos, credit cards or child care), and to take public transportation to work at least one day.
They’ll document their experiences on social media throughout the week, writing about the experiences or purchases they cannot afford.

Carlita Adamy of Solvay, who attended Sunday’s minimum wage rally outside St. Lucy’s Church on Gifford Street, said her family struggle to survive on their income from low and minimum wage jobs. Adamy earns $14 an hour as a driver for Loretto, which operates nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. But her husband, Jacob Adamy, is paid $9 an hour to make pizzas for a Solvay pizzeria. They have two children, ages 10 and 3.

“It would be quite a benefit if he earned an extra $6 an hour,” Carlita Adamy said of her husband. “Trying to make ends meeting week to week is extremely difficult.”

She said she and her husband can’t buy many healthy foods for their children because they can’t afford them after paying their $650 a month rent. The couple was without a working vehicle until recently. They had to take buses to work and she would walk to the grocery store.

But Cuomo’s $15 an hour minimum wage pitch has emerged as the most contentious of his proposals for the 2016-17 state budget, which the Legislature is required to vote on by April 1. Cuomo is crisscrossing the state campaigning for the $15 an hour minimum wage, Leaders of the Republican-controlled New York State Senate are opposed to the wage hike.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, the deputy majority leader of the Senate, said Friday that he does not expect the Senate to approve the $15 an hour minimum wage because there’s no economic justification for increasing it 67 percent. DeFrancisco held a news conference where a parade of business owners and representatives of business associations said a $15 minimum wage would cause layoffs and hurt Upstate New York businesses.

DeFrancisco, one of the most vocal critics of the higher wage, was the target of union attack ads this week because of his opposition, and he was challenged Sunday by Lotierzo to participate in the minimum wage challenge.

Syracuse Councilor Helen Hudson Supports A $15 An Hour Minimum Wage
Councilor Helen Hudson talks Sunday, March 6, 2016 in Syracuse, N.Y. at
Cuomo said Sunday more than 100 faith leaders from across the state have endorsed his proposals for 12 weeks of employee-funded paid family leave and the $15 an hour minimum wage. Included in his list of leaders were five from Central New York:
Mark Cass, executive director of Alliance for Transforming Communities; Episcopal Diocese of Central New York Bishop Skip Adams; New Life Temple of Praise Bishop Ronald Dewberry; St. Lucy’s Church Rev. Jim Matthews; and Temple Society of Concord Rabbi Daniel Fellman.

“The minimum wage is about $9.00 an hour. We just raised it to $9.00. But the truth is, on $18,000 a year, you cannot support a family in New York, let alone decently,” Cuomo said at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn. “We need to raise the minimum wage. Our proposal is $15.00, which is about $30,000 a year, which, by the way, does not mean you’re going to take a vacation to Florida. But it means you could at least pay for food and clothing, etcetera, and we want to get that done this year.”

Many of the minimum wage challenge participants plan to go to a massive rally in support of the $15 minimum wage March 15 in Albany outside the State Capitol building. An estimated 10,000 people are expected at the rally, said Wendy Colucci, of the Central New York Area Labor Federation. She said organizers expect to have four buses driving demonstrators from Syracuse to rally.

The 25 participating in the challenge in the Syracuse area include:

Lawrence Brooks, an 1199 SEIU organizer
Laura Cardoso
Joy Casey
Wendy Colucci, CNY Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
Michele Czornij, 1199 SEIU
Colleen Deacon & Erin Fleck, of Deacon for Congress
Pat Greenberg, 1199 SEIU
Allison Krause, 1199 SEIU
Ruth Heller, 1199 SEIU
Kaye Jeager, a registered nurse at Crouse Hospital
Tim Fay, New York State United Teachers Union
Helen Hudson, Syracuse councilor
Eric Kingson & Liz Gerace, of Kingson for Congress
Frank Lazarski, executive director of the United Way of CNY
Jerry Lotierrtzo, Central New York Chapter of the NYS Alliance for Retired Americans
Kerin Rigney, DeWitt councilor
Mark Spadafore, 1199 SEIU
Adrienne Valenti, 1199 SEIU
Andrea Wandersee, Open Hand Theatre executive director
Dorothy Wigmore, Occupational Health Clinic
Steve Williams and Nichole Johnson, of Williams for Congress
Sam Young, DeWitt councilor

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Topics: Regional News