Minimum Wage Debate Heats Up in NY

Feb 15, 2013

New York's minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
Credit WAMC

Washington's concern about setting a new national minimum wage inspired the New York State Assembly to make its minimum wage legislation reflect the $9 an hour goal set by President Obama in his State of the Union proposal.

According to a January 2013 report by the Fiscal Policy Institute, a person working full-time would earn around $3,000 more a year, if New York's minimum wage goes to $8.75, as Governor Andrew Cuomo recommended in his State of the State address.

On Thursday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver amended the plan he laid out 13 months ago so that it would increase New York’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 starting in 2014, and bind future increases to inflation; the Manhattan Democrat  previously sought a jump to $8.50.

While that extra 50 cents an hour may not seem like much, Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, says it would make a big difference for many who are struggling.

The last minimum wage increase for New Yorkers came in 2004 when it was agreed it should be raised from $5.15 to $7.15 over three years. The federal rate rose to $7.25 in 2009, which in turn forced the state rate up by a dime.

Suggested cost-of-living adjustments have garnered the most opposition from business lobbyists, who argue employers will find it difficult to afford the increases.

The 3-thousand member-strong Business Council of New York State says employers will be forced to either cut jobs, reduce workers' hours, or pass the increased costs on to their customers, by raising prices.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 19 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages higher than New York's. The highest is Washington at $9.19 per hour.   Brooklyn Senator Kevin Parker has been pushing for a minimum wage higher than 11-dollars an hour.

A spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, who called a minimum-wage hike a “job killer” last year, says that Skelos would prefer to wait for Congress to act before taking action on any minimum wage legislation in Albany.