January 9, 2014

Assembly Advances Measure to Accelerate $9 Minimum Wage Increase
Speaker Silver and Assemblyman Heastie Introduce Legislation to Repeal Minimum Wage Reimbursement Credit for Low-Wage Employers

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Labor Committee Chair Carl Heastie today announced the introduction of legislation (A.8343) to expedite the implementation of the $9 an hour minimum wage increase and tie future increases to inflation. The legislation would require the increase to take effect on December 31, 2014, a full year ahead of schedule.

A second bill (A.8344) would repeal reimbursement tax credits to low-wage employers who pay minimum wage to students ages 16 to 19. The credit incentivizes businesses to substitute adequately paid older individuals and non-students with students earning the legal minimum wage.

"Introducing this legislation to accelerate the three-stage minimum wage increase underscores the fact that right now, there are thousands of hardworking men and women that are still forced to choose between putting food on the table for their families and paying their bills each month. These are the people - the families with children to feed, houses to maintain and doctor's expenses to pay for - that simply cannot wait two more years for a decent raise," Assembly Speaker Silver said. "It is unreasonable to condemn these families to a life of poverty in order to appease large-scale businesses that are exploiting the working poor to maximize profits."

"We refuse to sit by as thousands of New Yorkers work day-in and day-out on minimum wage and struggle to support their families," said Heastie. "With this legislation, the Assembly majority is taking significant strides toward giving these hardworking men and women a better shot at a more fair and honest minimum wage in one year, rather than in two."

This legislation would also increase the cash wage for food service workers to $5.50 immediately, to $6.20 on December 31, 2014, and index the cash wage to inflation annually thereafter. The bill also requires a wage board to conduct a review to ensure that cash wages are adequate to protect the health and livelihood of all hospitality workers.

The Assembly originally passed legislation in March to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour on January 1, 2014 and then index it to adjust for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Paul Sonn, general counsel at the National Employment Law Project said, "We applaud Speaker Silver's call to accelerate New York's minimum wage increase. With Congress and other major states calling for minimum wages of $10 or more, there is no reason to wait until 2016 to raise New York's wage to $9.00. And the Speaker's call to repeal the wasteful McDonalds/Walmart tax give-away that the state Senate demanded as part of last year's minimum wage deal, would save the state millions in revenue that should be used to meet pressing budgetary needs."

Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO said, "We commend Speaker Silver, Chairman Heastie and their Assembly Majority colleagues for recognizing the destruction income inequality and poverty are causing in our communities and for once again leading the way to improve the lives of low wage workers. Last year's action was a good first step, but clearly much more is needed as too many New Yorkers work harder and harder, but fall further and further behind. Accelerating the phase-in and providing for indexation address both the immediate and long-term needs for a strong minimum wage. In addition, correcting inequities in the law that negatively impact tipped workers and incentivize the suppression of wages restores fairness. These proposals will directly affect the lives of those who need our help the most and move us closer to shared prosperity."

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW said, "I applaud Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Labor Committee Chair Carl Heastie for their extraordinary leadership on behalf of countless working people. The acceleration of the minimum wage increase with indexing to inflation will provide a much-needed boost to struggling working families and help strengthen our state's economy. Silver and Heastie also deserve credit and praise for dropping a tax credit that created a disincentive for hiring and retaining workers aged 20 or older. Walmart and other low-wage employers didn't need that tax credit. Working families and the state's economy will be fundamentally better off because of this vital legislative package. I urge Governor Cuomo and both houses of the state legislature to support this legislation."

The state of California recently increased its minimum wage to $10 an hour, while New Jersey voters approved a measure to increase its wage and index future increases to inflation.