Hawkins to Cuomo re Amazon: Where is My $15 Wage

Hawkins to Cuomo re Amazon: Where is My $15 Wage

For immediate release: October 3, 2018

If Howie Hawkins is not elected governor, the Green Party candidate plans to go back to work at UPS during the holiday peak season in November and December for $10.40 an hour.

When Gov. Cuomo praised Amazon on Tuesday "for following New York’s lead and raising the minimum wage to $15,” Hawkins asked, “What $15 wage?”

The minimum wage in upstate New York is currently $10.40 an hour. It will go up in steps to $12.50 by 2021. Then the state will take another look at the upstate minimum wage.

“Cuomo is campaigning around the state saying he got us a $15 wage. He’s no more reality-based than Trump. By the time we get to $15 upstate, it will still be a poverty wage. It’s time to demand $20 by 2020 statewide,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins is a retired Teamster who unloaded freight at UPS until early this year when he took his pension at age 65. But thanks to a 2014 bipartisan amendment to the federal Employment Income Retirement Security Act of 1974, the law’s protection of earned pension benefits was removed for multi-employer pension plans.

The New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund is in a downward financial spiral because many trucking companies and other employers left the fund, leaving only one active worker contributing to the fund for every one retiree and two “orphans” from the lost companies. The U.S. Treasury Department approved pension cuts to New York State Teamsters pension fund beneficiaries last fall. Active workers like Hawkins had their pension cut by 19%. Retirees under 80 years old had their pensions cut 29%.

To ease the impact of the cuts, the pension fund will allow retirees like Hawkins to supplement their diminished pension by going back to work for their former employer for up to 1,000 hours a year. But Hawkins will lose seniority and start over at the bottom at $10.40, down from the $22.29 wage he had built up from 17 years of seniority raises.

The proposed UPS contract that Teamsters are currently voting on would only raise the starting wage at UPS to $13. Hawkins spent three days over the last two months leafleting outside his old UPS hub urging workers to vote "no" on the proposed contract for that reason among many others.

“Wages, benefits, and working conditions have been notoriously bad at non-union Amazon warehouses. Now Amazon will have a higher starting wage than unionized UPS. UPS had $7.5 billion in profits last year. Teamsters should vote no on this proposal and demand a much better contract,” Hawkins said.

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