With New York’s economy still struggling to regain footing after one of the worst recessions in American history, hardworking families need all help they can get. With income inequality increasing, it’s vital that we rekindle the spirit of shared prosperity and the dignity of hard work. That’s why I’m fighting to increase the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour beginning January 2013 and indexing it to the rate of inflation starting January 2014. The minimum wage for food-service workers who receive tips would also increase from $5.00 to $5.86 per hour in 2013 and be indexed to the rate of inflation in 2014, making sure that working families enjoy a better quality of life (A.9148).
Many families living on the state’s current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, or roughly $15,000 a year for a 40-hour workweek, have an incredibly tough time balancing a household budget. In 2010, the top three occupations in industries that saw job growth nationwide were retail sales employees, cashiers and food preparation workers – all of which are predominantly minimum-wage jobs.i By increasing the minimum wage in New York, more than 1 million New Yorkers, or 14 percent of our workforce, would benefit.
One commonsense way to get our economic engine up and running is to increase consumer demand, which can be done by putting more money into the pockets of the people who are most likely to spend it – lower-income families. The federal increase in the minimum wage in July 2009 was estimated to have generated $5.5 billion in consumer spending across the country.ii By increasing New York’s minimum wage for over a million families, we can help grow our economy right here.
Since minimum wage increases have not kept up with inflation, many minimum-wage workers have been forced to live paycheck to paycheck. If the federal minimum wage had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years, it would currently stand at $10.39 an hour.iii New York’s $7.25 minimum wage is insufficient for any family to achieve a modest standard of living, forcing them to choose between rent, heat, gas, food and medications. But the Assembly’s plan would call for the minimum wage to be indexed to inflation starting in 2014, finally providing a wage that better meets the needs of working families.
While there is unwarranted speculation that increasing the minimum wage leads to extensive job loss, research on the topic proves otherwise. Over two decades, studies that measured employment levels before and after minimum wage increases found that these hikes did not lead to job loss, even during times of high unemployment.iv
Currently, New York’s neighboring states of Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts – as well as 15 other states across the country – all have higher minimum wages than New York. With a proud history as one of the most progressive states in the nation, we should be leading the way, not lagging behind. In the past five years, our state increased the minimum wage rate by just 10 cents per hour, which is simply not enough.
Additionally, the topic of increasing the minimum wage has overwhelming support from New Yorkers, with 88 percent of those polled in a recent opinion survey favoring raising it from $7.25 to $10 an hour, while adjusting rates to the cost of living each year.
During a time when many New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet, a minimum wage increase is extremely important to families trying to keep up with the rising cost of living. No one who works full time should be poor and without hope. It’s crucial that we value the role of work in our communities and reward employees with a fair wage 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.
As always, please feel free to contact me about this or any other important community issue at 718-257-5824 or via email at BarronI@assembly.state.ny.us.