Labor groups gathered at the Capitol on Monday protesting against Walmart’s political influence over the minimum wage bill by making contributions to Senate Republicans for minimum wage subsidies, Gannett’s Haley Viccaro reports.
Occupy Albany, MoveOn and other groups said that Walmart provided more than $500,000 in contributions since 2010 to Senate Republicans who pushed for a tax subsidy to offset the rising minimum wage in the state.
“The final bill that was agreed to would take taxpayer money and reimburse corporations as large as Walmart and McDonald’s for the added money they have to pay their workers,” said Colin Donnaruma of Occupy Albany.
The groups said Walmart participated in “legal bribery” to shift the tax burden onto New Yorkers. The tax break would save Walmart up to $85 million and cost taxpayers between $35 and $65 million, according to Occupy Albany.
The tax subsidies would encourage large corporations to fire older workers because the subsidies apply to employees between the ages of 16 and 19, Donnaruma said.
The groups said this example of exchanging cash for political influence unveils Albany’s issues within the campaign-finance system.
“Big money is not just buying elections, they are buying public policy as well,” said Susan Weber of MoveOn.org. “Walmart bought the Senate and high jacked the minimum wage bill, now riddled with benefits for low wage employers.”
The groups called for campaign-finance reforms, including tighter limits on donations. Weber said public financing of elections should be passed to reform the government process and restore public trust.
The state budget increases the minimum wage to $8 an hour by the end of this year, $8.75 by the end of 2015 and $9 by the end of 2016.
Updated: Senate Republicans dismissed the criticism.
“It’s complete and utter nonsense. This provision was part of a budget compromise that will keep young workers from losing their jobs. In fact, we are surprised that these groups would oppose this provision given the high unemployment rate among young New Yorkers, especially minorities,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif.