Earlier this week, at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea, about 50 people waited in line with cafeteria trays to have an early Thanksgiving lunch consisting of an apple, hot sandwich and cider.
As they came to the end of the line, they were asked to sign a card appealing to New York State Senators to pass legislation to raise the minimum wage by $1.25 to $8.25.
It is unclear whether politicians will be listening to the message.
Minimum wage was supposed to be on the agenda for a special session of the state Legislature this winter and it was a popular talking point across the state during this month’s elections.
But many lawmakers are now focused on recovery from Hurricane Sandy and prospects for a special session are growing slimmer by the hour. Control of the State Senate is also in chaos and the popular governor, who could push lawmakers into a deal, has waffled on whether a hike in the minimum wage is politically feasible at this time.
In spite of the dimming hopes for minimum wage, activists and spiritual leaders who gathered Monday at the Church of the Holy Apostles, home of the largest emergency soup kitchen in New York City, were undeterred. They had chosen Thanksgiving Week to time the launch of their statewide campaign to call on legislators to pass minimum wage legislation, bringing together activists, spiritual leaders and unemployed New Yorkers.
Mark Dunlea, executive director of Hunger Action, which helped organized Monday’s event at the Manhattan church, said the hurricane was no excuse for putting off a special session or a minimum wage hike.
“We should have a special session and fill a gymnasium in Queens,” Dunlea said, referring to one of the hardest-hit regions in the city. “Get all the legislators down there, have them pass the minimum wage hike and everyone can help out with Occupy Sandy and see what really is going on.”
Sen. Joe Addabbo, who represents some of those hard-hit parts of Queens, said he would like to go back to Albany to do “the people’s work” — including passing legislation to increase the minimum wage.
“The governor can force us to go there, but he can’t force us to do work and that is unfortunate,” he said. “I thought we would be back in Albany and addressing important legislation. The time frame on the minimum wage is flexible. If we had to wait to January and the Democrats are in charge we will pass it then, if it has to wait til January and the Republicans are in the majority we will have to be a loud voice for it. But I really thought we would be back in December to work on this.”
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