Affordable Housing


On Monday, March 28, community and labor leaders, students, senior citizens, and elected officials from Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Columbia counties committed to “live” on the current New York State minimum wage of $9 an hour for five days and document their experience on social media with the hashtag #CapitalRegionNeeds15. Participants hope that accepting the “Minimum Wage Challenge” will draw attention to the struggle that more than 145,000 workers in the region endure every day as they try to make ends meet without access to a living wage.

The “Challenge," first launched by the Fight for $15 Coalition in Central New York a month ago, calls for elected officials and community leaders to live on New York’s minimum wage of $9/hour for 5 days. In that time, participants document their experiences on social media. People across New York State have been taking the challenge for the last 4 weeks. Since New York State elected officials will be voting on increasing the minimum wage to $15 at the State Capitol in their backyard this week, the Capital Region group decided to start their campaign at this crucial time. The state budget is due on April 1.

Rensselaer County business owner and former Troy Councilman Rodney Wiltshire: “As a business owner I see that an increased minimum wage of $15 an hour would open up an entire new set of customers. More people will be able to purchase solar technologies. At the current minimum wage, people who are interested in solar are unable to qualify for financing, even with two full-time wage earners in the household. This is ironic and unfortunate because the people who would benefit most from reduced energy costs can't afford it. Raising the minimum wage to $15 is not only economic justice, but it’s also energy justice as well. And it’s good for business.”

Albany County Legislator Paul Miller: “Participating in this challenge will show thousands of New York residents the decisions forced upon those struggling to survive on the current minimum wage. Do I purchase the medicine I need or do I purchase food for my family this week? Such a terrible choice could be avoided by increasing the minimum wage and I hope my participation in this challenge will help others see that the time to increase New York's minimum wage is now."

Antonella Pechtel, 1199SEIU Hudson Valley/Capital Region Political Director: “The Minimum Wage Challenge is a new way to emphasize the importance of a living wage for workers in New York State. I see hard-working health caregivers every day who are not able to make ends meet at home. They live on both sides of our Hudson River. Poverty doesn’t choose sides. Hardworking people struggling today are Republicans and they are Democrats and they are those who have no political party affiliation at all. Poverty crosses all partisan lines. Simply too many residents of Capital Region and in New York state must make choices between buying

gas, paying the heating bill, or just going without. Many must work more than one job, losing precious time with their families and suffering fatigue that makes it hard to face another day. No one who works hard should live in poverty.”

Tamara Elzubair, Certified Nursing Assistant, (C.N.A): Every day is a minimum wage challenge for me. I am the mother of 3 daughters, and I have 3 granddaughters and 1 grandson. Right now, out of necessity I live in Schenectady with my oldest and youngest daughters and also, my 3 granddaughters. We help each other. In order to take care of my family, I have a second job as private duty aide, when I’m not working at the nursing home. I have to work so many hours to pay our bills, that I actually have less and less time to spend with the family, even though we live together. No one who works 2 jobs like I do – no one who works any full-time job should have to struggle the way we do. We all try hard and deserve a decent life.”

Schenectady City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield: “Working people should be able to earn enough to at least provide the basic essentials. The current minimum wage forces families to rely on government subsidies in order to have a minimum standard of living. Increasing the minimum wage to $15 will create the opportunity to lift out of poverty tens of thousands of Capital Region residents, enabling them to support their families with dignity."

Hudson Alderwoman Alexis Keith: “Everyone who works hard has worth. We live in the richest nation, and yet workers receive starvation wages. It should be a crime to have people work full-time hours and force them to still rely on public assistance to make ends meet. We need to stand together and have our voices heard, let’s end poverty wages in New York, now!”

Judd W. Krasher, Albany City Council: “Raising the minimum wage is an economic and moral necessity. Everyone who works hard should be able to support themselves and their families. That's a belief that should not depend on where you fall on the ideological spectrum. Let us be united by our shared sense of humanity, and let us eradicate the lunacy of being 'working poor.' Raise the wage and raise it now."

Minerva Solla, New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA): “Workers take their jobs seriously, so we need to take the pay that they deserve seriously. Raising the minimum wage is about the American Dream of respect, and rewarding hard work. Raising the wage to $15 an hour will lift up the entire community.”

Albany County Legislator Bryan Clenahan: “Raising the minimum wage is the right and just thing to do for thousands of New Yorkers who are working hard but still struggling to make ends meet every week. All workers deserve a living wage. Now is the time for New York State to do the right thing for its citizens and pass a real minimum wage increase. It will benefit our workers and our local and state economies.”

Other challenge takers include Victor Mendolia, Hudson Community leader; Tiffany Garriga, Hudson Alderwoman; Allison Mclean Lane, Albany County Legislator; Gail Cook, 1199SEIU; Leesa Perazzo, Schenectady City Councilwoman.

Details of the challenge can be found below and at You can follow the challenge participants on their personal Facebook and social media accounts. Excerpts will be found at:

What is the Minimum Wage Challenge? The minimum wage challenge is a campaign that calls on elected officials and community leaders to live on New York’s minimum wage of $9 an hour for 5 days and document their experience on social media. The challenge is designed to highlight the need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and push elected officials to do everything they can to make a $15 minimum wage a reality for New York workers.

What are the rules of the challenge?

1. You have budget of $97 per week or $13.86 per day for five days to cover all of your expenses excluding housing, car payments, credit card bills & childcare expenses. See how this budget was determined below.

2. You must stick to this budget for all other expenses during the 5 days of the challenge.

3. Participate in one task per day during the week, as outlined below under “Let’s get started.” You don’t need to do the tasks in that order or on those particular days if that’s not possible with the exception of Day 1 and Day 5 tasks.

4. Post a minimum of one social media post per day that includes either a picture or video describing your experience and any challenges that you faced each day. Every social media post should include the hashtags #CapitalRegionNeeds15 and #NYFightfor15. At the end of the challenge, post a video to Facebook or Twitter challenging 5 additional people to take the challenge. Remember to tag the people that you are challenging.

Let’s Get Started – Recommended Schedule of Tasks for the Week

Day 1 Wednesday: Announce that you’re taking the challenge

Announce that you’re taking the minimum wage challenge with a press statement (elected officials only) and social media post. Explain why you’ve decided to take the challenge and what you hope to learn from living on minimum wage for 5 days.

Day 2 Thursday: Transportation

Ride with a low wage worker (if possible) to work or take public transportation on your own to work. Document how long the trip is, how much it costs, etc. How much time do you lose with public transportation vs. taking your car? Post a video and/or pictures to social media of this trip.

Day 3 Friday: Grocery Shopping Trip

Take a grocery shopping trip and post a video and/or photos of this shopping trip to Facebook/Twitter. Talk about what difficult decisions you had to make due to your budget limitations.

Day 4 Saturday: Social Activities

Post on social media posts around social activities. What would you normally be doing that you can’t do this week? Dinner with friends, a movie, etc.? How did this affect your holiday if you celebrate? Are there affordable options within your budget?

Day 5 Sunday: Summary of Challenge

Today’s social media posts should summarize what you’ve learned this week by living on minimum wage. How will this help you be a better advocate to raise the minimum wage?

Minimum Wage Challenge Budget

We allocated $97 total for the 5 days based on the average weekly pay of a person making New York’s current $9 minimum wage working 40 hours per week after taxes.

Here's the breakdown:

• Weekly Income. The challenge gives you a weekly budget of $360 per week based on 40 hours of work at $9 per hour.

• Taxes. From your $360 salary, take out $40 for taxes, so that comes to $320 per week.

• Housing Expenses. Deduct $223.00 per week for housing and utilities. This is the average amount a minimum-wage worker in New Yorker pays for housing.

• Final Budget. Deducting the taxes and housing costs from a $320 weekly salary leaves $97.00 per week or $13.86 per day for 5 days. This amount has to cover all non-housing expenses, including food, healthcare, transportation and entertainment.

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