As New York’s economy is still struggling to recover after one of the worst recessions in American history, we must do more to help hardworking families get by. With the cost of living rising faster than many household incomes, we need to increase fairness and recognize hard work to make sure that Suffolk County families enjoy a better quality of life. We need to raise the minimum wage.
In the Assembly, I’m working to pass a bill that would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour and the tip-wage for food-service workers from $5.00 to $5.86 per hour beginning January 2013, and then link both to the rate of inflation starting January 2014 (A.9148). This would affect over a million New Yorkers and provide hardworking Suffolk County families with a fair wage to help make ends meet.
If the minimum wage in New York had held pace with the rate of inflation over the past 40 years, it would currently stand at more than $10 per hour. Yet the harsh reality is that the state’s minimum wage has only increased by a mere 10 cents per hour in the past five years, which falls far short of the rising cost of daily necessities. In the past two years alone, the cost of home heating oil on Long Island has increased by 27 percent and gas prices have risen by 99 cents per gallon. And as a result of the tough economic climate, more and more hardworking families are left to struggle below the poverty line. This simply cannot continue.
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.i
Additionally, studies show that increasing the minimum wage can help boost consumer spending and our local economy. Every dollar in wage increase for minimum-wage workers results in $3,500 in new consumer spending in one year, which will help grow local businesses and spur job creation.ii Increasing the minimum wage can also be beneficial to employers and businesses, as studies show that increased wages can result in less employee turnover and higher overall productivity.iii
Eighteen states have a higher minimum wage than New York, including our bordering states of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. Another 10 states already index their wage to the rate of inflation. New York has a proud history as one of the more progressive states in the nation and we should be leading the way on this issue, not lagging behind.
It’s time we raise the minimum wage, and in the coming months I’ll work to do just that. To join the fight to increase the minimum wage for New York’s hardworking families, please sign the online petition at raisethewageNY.com.