Tompkins County Workers’ Center and New York State Minimum Wage Coalition Comments on Agreement to Raise New York’s Minimum Wage to $9.00/hour Over Three Years: Minimum Wage Should Be a Living Wage!

Labor, business, community, religious and policy groups from around the state, including the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, reacted to the agreement by the legislature and Governor Cuomo to increase New York’s minimum wage over the next three years, as part of the state budget being voted on in late March 2013.

The agreement includes a commitment that Governor Cuomo will use the Department of Labor wage board process to determine the appropriate raise for thousands of tipped restaurant workers whose base wage – currently $5.00 per hour – will not automatically be raised under the budget deal.

As part of the agreement, Senate negotiators demanded the creation of a wasteful tax credit give-away, which will give low-wage employers like Walmart and McDonalds millions in taxpayer funds, and create dangerous incentives for employers to replace adult workers with teens and to keep teens at the minimum wage and not a dime more. [For more detail on this unprecedented tax credit, see Fiscal Policy Institute, “The Many Problems with New York’s Proposed Minimum Wage Reimbursement Credit.”]

Currently New York’s tipped wage is 69%. Under New York’s wage board system, Governor Cuomo’s Labor Commissioner Peter Rivera is authorized to convene a board to investigate and report on the adequacy of New York’s tipped minimum wage, and then issue an order raising the tipped wage.

Says Pete Meyers of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC): “While we applaud the decision to increase the NYS Minimum Wage to $9.00/hour over three years, we at the TCWC believe that the Minimum Wage should increase to a Living Wage. We will work tirelessly to continue to raise this flag: all workers should be able to support themselves on their hard-earned pay and not have to depend on public assistance. That is still not possible at $9.00/hour. The only fair Minimum Wage is a Living Wage”.

New York’s minimum wage boost also comes one month after Congress introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2015 and index it to inflation. Nearly 140 House of Representative members and 28 Senators have already signed onto this legislation as co-sponsors.

The most rigorous economic research over the past 20 years shows that raising the minimum wage boosts worker pay without causing job losses – even in regions where the economy is weak or unemployment is high. Last month, leading economists surveyed by the University of Chicago agreed by a 3-to-1 margin that the benefits of raising and indexing the minimum wage outweigh the costs. A new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research reviews the past two decades of research on the impact of minimum wage increases on employment and concludes that “the weight of the evidence points to little or no effect of minimum wage increases on job growth.”

–Thanks to the National Employment Law Project for some portions of the above text