Will Nassau County Hit the Brakes on Living Wage?

July 26, 2010

NEW YORK – The battle over the Living Wage Law is expected to heat up again today in Nassau County on Long Island. A special session of country lawmakers has been called to determine whether a one-dollar-an hour pay increase can be put on hold. Nassau County enacted its Living Wage Law in 2007, and the final pay increase is supposed to take effect on August 1. Home health agencies says they can’t afford it right now, with some companies claiming it could lead to layoffs.

Lisa Tyson with the Long Island Progressive Coalition points out, though, that companies have not backed up those claims.

“There have been several hearings, and what is clear is that the industry cannot prove that there’s going to be job losses. The living wage is actually paid for through the contracts, so it’s in there and they don’t want to give it to the workers who really deserve it.”

The current living wage is $11.50 an hour, with benefits. The measure before Nassau County lawmakers would block an increase to $12.50 an hour that is supposed to take effect next week.

Home health care agencies claim they’ve been caught in the middle, and now are having a hard time functioning because of state budget cuts.

Tyson says these companies already caught a break when the pay raise was stretched out over a period of years, and now it is time to pay up.

“I believe that there is a compromise bill to have the pay increase start in February, but that’s just not fair. These people are making poverty wages and they work for the county basically through a contact. It is just incorrect and wrong to do this to people.”

The home health industry employs about 5,000 workers in Nassau County.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service – NY