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Tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday, March 23, more than 20 community and labor leaders, students, senior citizens, and elected officials from Sullivan, Ulster, Dutchess, and Orange counties will commit 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 #HVneeds15. Participants hope that accepting the “Minimum Wage Challenge” will draw attention to the struggle that 281,000 Hudson Valley workers endure every day as they try to make ends meet without access to a living wage.

“For the next week I will be trying to support a family of four on basically the cost of a pizza a day,” said challenge participant Rob Pinto. “It's a 5-day challenge for me, but unfortunately a way of life for far too many. We need to make a change.”

Former Senator and 2016 Senate candidate Terry Gipson agrees. "The working men and women of the Hudson Valley need a livable minimum wage. Full time workers should not have to live below the poverty line, relying on public benefits to meet their families’ basic needs. A $15 minimum wage will create the opportunity to lift out of poverty tens of thousands of Hudson Valley residents, enabling them to support their families with dignity."

“The Minimum Wage Challenge is a new way to emphasize the importance of a living wage for workers in New York State,” explains Beth Soto, Executive Director for the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation and Minimum Wage Challenge organizer, “I see people come through our doors every day who are not able to make ends meet at home. They live on both sides of our magnificent 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 Hudson Valley residents 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.”

Gipson invited Senator Sue Serino to take the challenge. He said, “More than a quarter of New York’s children live below the federal poverty line, but Senator Serino and many of her colleagues aren’t making the key connection --- that families are struggling, working more than job, just to feed their kids. We are doing our best to explain to them that raising the minimum wage is an economic essential, as well as a moral imperative. Hard working families and children MUST NOT live in poverty. The legislature must get this done now, when they settle the state budget next week.”

Addie Davis, a certified nursing assistant at a New Paltz nursing home wants state elected officials to understand that $15 is not an abstract idea and that it is about real people’s lives, like hers. “Right now I’m living pay check to pay check. I have to work 50-55 hours a week so there is enough money to pay bills. Nothing fancy – I need to pay rent, and a health insurance premium, not to mention bills for electricity and of course heat in the winter. I hardly get a chance to spend time with my family–my children and my grandson. I should be able to help my own kids and see my grandson grow up. Don’t get me wrong – I do love the work I do, but I feel like I’m taking care of other people’s families but I can’t take good enough care of my own. Raising the minimum wage to $15 will mean I don’t have to take a second job and that would be a relief,” she said.

Details of the challenge can be found at and are attached. A list of challenge participants (in formation) will be available at the press conference.


What is the Minimum Wage Challenge? The minimum wage challenge is a campaign being launched March 23 to call 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 #HVneeds15 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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