TESTIMONY OF ANDY MORRISON, CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
NEW ECONOMY PROJECT
Subminimum Wage Hearing
June 27, 2018
Thank you to Commissioner Reardon and the NYS Department of Labor for the opportunity to participate in today’s important hearing and to share our comments about Governor Cuomo’s proposal to examine raising the base wage paid to tipped workers to the regular minimum wage.
My name is Andy Morrison and I am New Economy Project’s campaigns director. New Economy Project works with community groups to build a just economy, based on cooperation, equity, racial justice, and ecological sustainability. Since our organization’s founding in 1995, we have worked closely with a wide array of community-based organizations to challenge systemic discrimination by Wall Street banks and other financial services entities that harm New Yorkers and perpetuate poverty, inequality, and segregation. We also work with groups to build alternative, community-controlled initiatives, including community land trusts, mutual housing, worker co-ops, community-based financial cooperatives, and more.
We have since 2005 operated a free legal assistance hotline for low-income New Yorkers aggrieved by discriminatory and exploitative financial practices. Through our hotline and related impact litigation, New Economy Project has helped hundreds of thousands of low-income New Yorkers and New Yorkers of color – particularly seniors, immigrants, and women – to vindicate their rights and obtain redress from banks, debt collectors, and other financial services companies.
New Economy Project strongly supports one fair wage for tipped workers and is proud to stand in solidarity with working New Yorkers demanding economic justice and dignity in the workplace. Today, we’re here to offer our perspective on how people’s economic insecurity subjects them to an array of abusive and discriminatory financial products and services, which in turn compounds existing inequities in our economy.
New York’s unjust, two-tiered wage system – under which hundreds of thousands of working New Yorkers are forced to rely on tips to get by – drives poverty and fuels economic insecurity. We know that tipped workers live in poverty at more than twice the rate of other working New Yorkers and frequently experience unpredictable fluctuations in pay and hours, depending on the shift and season.
“Families that experience income volatility—whether a gain or loss—report lower financial well-being and less savings than those with stable income,” according to an analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Through our work at New Economy Project, we have seen firsthand how low wages and financial instability throw low-income families into the clutches of financial predators, like abusive debt collectors, financial fraudsters, and high-cost lenders.
Indeed, financial exploitation feeds on people’s inability to get from paycheck to paycheck and an entire financial services industry has emerged in this country that is predicated on exploiting people and extracting wealth from low-income communities and communities of color. New Economy Project has tremendous expertise in this area and we would be happy to answer any questions and provide additional information.
As communities fight back against assaults by the Trump administration and others at the federal level on workers, immigrants, low-income people, and people of color, the need for local action has never been clearer. The “Fight for $15” was a major step forward for working New Yorkers, but tipped workers were left behind. All New Yorkers deserve a living wage and a workplace free of discrimination and harassment – as matters of worker, racial, gender, and economic justice. We urge the Department of Labor to raise the base wage for tipped workers to the regular minimum wage.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. New Economy Project looks forward to continuing to work with you on this important issue.