Albany – New York’s economy is still struggling to regain footing after one of the worst recessions in American history; hardworking families need all the help they can get. The New York Assembly introduced a bill on Monday, January 30, 2012 (A.9148) to raise the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, a 17 percent increase. The minimum wage for food-service workers who receive tips would also increase from $5.00 to $5.86 per hour in 2012 and be indexed to the rate of inflation in 2014, making sure that hard working families from the 33rd Assembly District enjoy a better quality of life. According to Assemblywoman Clark, “our State Legislature has not voted to raise the minimum wage since 2004.” A little extra money in the pocket of these struggling families will help keep them afloat by putting food on the table, keeping the heat on throughout the winter, and paying the rent.
The Assembly’s actions follow similar steps by lawmakers across the country: Delaware recently passed a minimum wage increase, and raises are being considered in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri and New Jersey. According to Assemblywoman Clark “the working poor are still reeling from past economic recessions, this latest recession has sent them spiraling into a depression. The increase in minimum wage will reflect the increases in cost of commodities and goods”.
Supporters of the minimum wage increase suggest that it could help bring low-income families out of poverty, stimulate economic growth and spur job creation. According to Assemblywoman Clark, “raising the minimum wage is a modest but real step in balancing our wage scales. If passed the minimum wage bill will represent a positive step towards changing the lives of high need families and communities throughout the state by increasing consumer’s ability to purchase”.
An increase in the minimum wage would impact approximately 14 percent of the states workforce, or 1.2 million people. According to Assemblywoman Clark, “it is a mystery how a single person - let alone a working family is able afford the cost of living in New York today, and still be able to invest in their future on a salary of $7.25 an hour; or $15,000 a year”. Many advocates suggest that there need to be an even greater increase than the modest 17 percent increase proposed in the Assembly bill. If the minimum wage kept pace with inflation over the past 40 years, it would be at $10.39 now, according to the National Employment Law Project.
Opponents of the minimum wage increase, cite a 2008 study by professors at American University and Cornell, indicating, that increasing the minimum wage to $8.25 could result in a loss of tens of thousands of jobs. Assemblywoman Clark offers a different take, suggesting, “Government has been shrinking and services have lessened while housing, food, transit and all the key parts of a family's budget have steadily and markedly increased. But the one thing that has remained stable: The ability of those at the margins of our communities to pay for those essential needs." Over two decades, studies continue to find that employment levels before and after minimum wage rate increases do not lead to job loss, even during times of high unemployment.
It is crucial that employees are rewarded with a fair wage that they can live on. To join the fight to increase the minimum wage for New York’s working families, please sign the online petition at raisethewageNY.com.
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