Community Leaders Explore Impacts of Raising the Minimum Wage to a Living Wage in Tompkins County

For millions of people in the US, pay is not increasing as fast as the cost of living. This problem is severe in Tompkins County, which has the highest housing costs in upstate New York. Working people are moving out of the county to afford the necessities of life.

One solution is to raise the minimum wage locally, as Albuquerque, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Fe, Seattle, and other towns and cities around the country have done already. The cost of living in Tompkins County rivals that in the more urban metropoles, and like these urban centers, Tompkins County residents struggle with a minimum wage that does not adequately match the local living costs. Unlike the urban centers, however, that have passed local minimum wage legislation that is higher than state levels, Tompkins County has a relatively small and isolated local economy.

Local business owners, elected officials, nonprofit representatives, and researchers have formed a working group to study likely costs and benefits of making the living wage a minimum wage in Tompkins County and contribute to broader understandings of local minimum wages.

Before the research begins, there will be eight information-gathering sessions. Each one will include a different subset of employers or workers. Participants will talk about how a living wage would affect their lives and the community as whole, for good or ill.

The first Workers Info-Gathering Session will take place on Saturday, July 28th, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Dryden Community Cafe, corner of W. Main Street and North Street (Route 13) in Dryden. If you are a worker of WHATEVER sort, please let us know if you’d be interested in being a part of this unique session! To find out more or express interest in participating, please email, or call the Tompkins County Workers’ Center at 607-269-0409.

The working group is chaired by Anna Kelles, Tompkins County Legislature District 1; Sally Klingel of the Scheinman Institute at Cornell’s ILR School is the facilitator. Pete Meyers, Coordinator of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center is the organizer.

Other members include:

  • Cynthia Brock (City of Ithaca Common Council, First Ward);
  • Dan Brown (Executive Director, Franziska Racker Centers);
  • Rob Brown (Operations Manager, Tompkins County Workers’ Center);
  • Mandy Ellis (NY Statewide Organizer, Civil Service Employees Association);
  • Gary Ferguson (Executive Director, Downtown Ithaca Alliance);
  • Bill Goodman (Supervisor, Town of Ithaca);
  • Ian Greer (Senior Research Associate, Cornell ILR School);
  • Pam Gueldner (Owner, Manndible Café);
  • Lisa Holmes (Director, Tompkins County Office for the Aging);
  • Michael Hoysic (Human Resource Manager, GreenStar);
  • Jason Leifer (Supervisor, Town of Dryden);
  • Eric Levine (acting CEO, Alternative Federal Credit Union);
  • Leslyn McBean-Clairborne (Tompkins County Legislator, District 1; Director GIAC);
  • Shaianne Osterreich (Board Member IC3 Downtown Children’s Center, Chair Ithaca College Economics Department);
  • Kathleen Pasetty (Owner, Fork and Gavel Café);
  • Kathy Schlather (Executive Director, Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County);
  • Erin Smith (Leadership Team Member, Tompkins County Workers’ Center);
  • Jennifer Tavares (President & CEO, Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce).