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Readers split on minimum wage hike

By 53 percent to 47 percent, respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll narrowly oppose an increase in the state’s minimum wage.

As part of his 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a minimum wage increase from the current $8.75 an hour to $10.50 statewide (and $11.50 in New York City) by the end of 2016.

Among those who own small businesses with employees earning the current minimum wage, 65 percent oppose the hike. 

Cuomo argues that an increase to $10.50 an hour—which is less than some Assembly Democrats want—would benefit more than 1.35 million workers statewide, with direct economic value of some $3.4 billion. It also would lift more than 100,000 New Yorkers out of poverty, he says. During a recent visit to Rochester, the governor said “If you believe in a strong economy, the New York way—the American way—then make this economy work for everyone.”

In the Finger Lakes region, Cuomo says, there are 37,628 minimum wage workers now at $8.75 an hour and 89,254 workers earning at or below the $10.50 hourly rate.

Opponents say a minimum wage hike is a mandated employer cost with no offsetting increase in business income or productivity. The Business Council of New York State estimates the governor’s proposal would result in a nearly $4,200 annual labor cost increase, on a full-time equivalent basis. In response, employers likely would take steps such as increasing prices, reducing hours for some workers or eliminating jobs.

Under legislation passed a year and a half ago, New York’s minimum wage rose from $7.25 to $8 an hour on Dec. 31, 2013, and then $8.75 on Dec. 31, 2014. The minimum wage will increase to $9 at the end of this year. Since July 2009, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour.

When readers were asked about a state minimum wage hike in 2013, a similar percentage—52 percent—opposed the increase.

Roughly 800 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted March 16 and 17.

Do you support or oppose increasing New York’s minimum wage to $10.50 an hour?
Support:  47% 
Oppose:  53%

Are you an owner of a business with employees earning the current minimum wage
($8.75 an hour)?
Yes:  16% 
No:  84%

For information on how the Snap Polls are conducted, click here.
COMMENTS:

I would rather have the job market drive the cost of labor than have government regulate it. Perhaps having the government publicly report the wage statistics for the lowest 1 percent of employees for every business would shame some businesses into increasing wages. Another option is to have an age limit on the minimum wage. For example, have the minimum wage apply to anyone 22 and older. This would open the entry-level job market for young adults who just need to gain experience. Increasing the minimum wage will only lead to automation of entry-level jobs.
—Charlie Waldman, L-Tron Corp.

As difficult as it would be for many employers, the truth is that $8.75 does not provide a living wage. We need to provide our employees with a living wage—or at least closer to it—if we are going to lift our entire community. Yes, it is likely that prices will increase, but time for business to step up and stop making a living on the backs of those who can least afford it.
—Kathleen Pavelka, president, Telecomp Inc.

Increasing the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour will not “break the bank” for the majority of businesses. Its greater impact is the increase in the hourly rates of those already making more than the minimum wage. Those employees may seek higher wages and those industries that can afford some wage increases will likely provide them; those that can’t, won’t. There is still enough downward pressure on wages, so we should be less concerned about the downside of this increase and encouraged by the upside, which is putting more dollars into the hands of those who will spend those dollars as consumers and thus help to improve the economy by increasing demand for products and services. The well-being of families can be improved, while the economy receives a boost, as well.
—Michael Harf

In NYS, $10.50 is still not a living wage. Why not $15?
—Ken Maher

While it is necessary to raise the minimum wage to allow for a living wage, for very small businesses it inhibits the hiring of early entry workers. Where is the “youth wage” or “student wage” that would allow for young people to get work experience and allow the small business the opportunity to do that?
—Archie Kutz, Lift Bridge Book Shop

I have seasonal staff that I need during my busy season. Even my entry-level staff is above minimum, but this rise would force me to raise their pay to make sure I get quality workers. I would be forced to raise my prices 15 percent to 20 percent. Many of my clients who are small-business owners would either raise prices or reduce staff. They work on very tight budgets; they cannot afford this and are most likely to be hurt by this. And Andy says New York State is open for business. He should get out of New York City and see the rest of New York.
—Joel Stauring, Cunningham Stauring & Associates

Minimum wage is a starting point. Good workers and good employers work out increases. Some jobs produce only $9 value to the employer. Let’s keep those jobs. This is an open marketplace.
—Harold Ley, Stoney Point Consultant Co.

Either increase the minimum wage or start taxing these employers for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid benefits, which the taxpayers have to provide for their employees. By raising the minimum wage the burden of these costs will be put where it belongs, on the people buying the products. If the cost of the products go up, you may not consume as much of them but that might not be a bad thing. Either that or the execs at the big companies might have to accept lower compensation in order to stay in business.
—Cliff Milligan

I owned a service-based business not too long ago with a few employees earning at or near minimum wage. Minimum wage hikes ultimately result in inflationary pressure, which will be passed on to the consumer. Most minimum wage earners are in service industries. Consumers of those services will be paying more for them due to higher labor costs. The inflation-adjusted wage (real wage) for low-income and minimum-wage earners will go down with inflationary pressure. So, the answer to help low income/minimum wage earners is to build skills so that real wages increase over time. I know that can be difficult, but that’s the only way to succeed in this country that has the values it has. The only other answer is to change the values of this country, and some are unfortunately trying to do just that. I don’t wish to live in that country.
—Tom Pasko, former small-business owner

I support an increase of the minimum wage to $10 an hour, which would be a 14 percent increase, and then automatic increases every two years tied into the cost-of-living index.
—Michael Lebowitz, real estate broker

The free market, competing for employees, should set wages. The work force then needs to meet or exceed the skills and expectations of the level of pay they want. It’s all about supply and demand.
—Terry Palis, president, Corporate Communications Inc.

Minimum wage is for entry-level workers to get experience. The intent of minimum wage is not to provide a wage to support a family but to help young and part-time workers to get a start and learn basic job skills. If an employee works hard, they should progress in the job and make more than minimum wage. Some jobs (retail, fast food) require little skill and will never earn high wages, but with a good work history these individuals can find work in industries with higher wages. If these companies are forced to pay higher wages, they will need to raise prices. In some cases this change can put a company out of business. These companies would also find ways to do more with less. Automation, robotics and other technology will replace workers. Let the free-market system work. Good workers that develop skills will earn good wages.
—Mike Hogan

Being a small business owner, I wonder why there isn’t a minimum wage for those younger than 19 years of age and one for over. Under 19 would be entry-level positions and not of a “family supporting” status. After 19, depending on status and skill level, you should be paid for. You should be working to gain addition skills to advance your pay, not just given to you by the government. In reality, the government wants a higher minimum wage so they can generate more payroll tax.
—Dan Zarpentine

Actually, I would prefer a living wage. Study after study has shown that there is actually a benefit in the economy when people can pay their bills, not be on public assistance and buy stuff.
—Dave Sutliff-Atias, Center for Disability Rights

The quality of help that is available at minimum wage is very low. Mostly women with children who have dropped out of school and have government benefits that enable them to live even without putting in a 40-hour week. My search always exceeds minimum wage but even that results in the same issues. The applicants who are fresh from school are usually dropouts and do not have ambition to train or perhaps the learned ability to do the math that is required to go on to advanced training and higher wages. By moving the wage up, I am already looking at equipment that is more automated to eliminate unskilled labor in my shop. I will be able to eliminate three to four workers and have one skilled person to monitor the equipment. I will need a major investment to do this. But I will have a reliable system that will not be absent for social services appointments, day care issues, etc. It’s a shame. I do like the people I work with, but I have to compete and find cheaper and better ways to stay in the game. The government is the problem.
—Nigel Heaton

Raising the minimum wage would benefit those working in fast-food, retail, etc. but would be a hindrance as far as manufacturing goes. Quite simply, I feel New York would be pricing themselves out of the market as far as attracting new business or creating new jobs with existing companies. I believe increasing the federal minimum wage would be far more effective. This way wouldn’t pit one state against another.
—Steve Neelin, CEO, Quality Recruiting

Gov. Cuomo and the liberal Democrats of this country have done everything they can to put a major hurting on businesses; from Obamacare and more regulations to higher taxes. They have forced businesses into a situation where to stay profitable they need to rely on part-time labor. Now the Democrats are trying to compensate for their transgressions by forcing a higher minimum wage on businesses to cover for the full-time jobs that will never return due to their failures. This will only lead to increased prices, reduced hours or the elimination of jobs as well as more businesses closing or leaving NY. Keep this cycle going and New York will stay the 49th worst state for businesses.
—Barry Alt, A2Z Enhanced Digital Solutions

Simply continuing to increase the minimum wage isn’t the answer. Educate people. By learning more and working hard, people can achieve higher earnings.
—Nancy May, APPC

I think there are serious pros and cons for both approaches. Perhaps better for our whole society would be to have career/experienced workers at an even higher living wage, but to still allow a lower minimum wage for seasonal, student and entry-level workers. Different communities have very different costs of living, and it’s difficult to implement one minimum wage statewide or nationwide.
—Sally Howard, Solara Concepts

Mr. Cuomo conveniently omits the economic impact of the layoffs that inevitably follow increases in the minimum wage. I wonder if he feels any guilt for those at the bottom of the economic ladder who do lose their jobs due to the minimum wage increase. The other thing that bothers me about this is that if you follow the logic, we should raise the minimum wage to $20 per hour or $30 per hour to get even more economic benefits.
—George Dounce

Be prepared for inflation.
—Mark Williams

Government must really think that money grows on trees. Years of abusive spending and taxation have numbed government officials to the fact that at the end of the day, somebody has to make the money. And it’s not the Federal Reserve! Oops, I forgot that can always just go shake down some constituent. Where do they really expect a $4,200 per employee increase to come from? The answers are many: from reduced employment and higher prices, to name just two. Before government decides to tax employers more, maybe they should give a moment’s thought on how to finance their largess. How about giving employers a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for every dollar the increase in minimum wages costs them? Or alternatively, reduce elective officials’ wages to pay for “this tax” being foisted on the businesses of New York. But then again, maybe the governor wants to tax businesses until they leave the state. They profess to being business-friendly, but those are just words. Look at what they do to determine their true intent.
—Keith B. Robinson, Diamond Packaging

The term “minimum wage” should be changed to “living wage.” Because that is what it has come to—adults trying to live off of it. If there were other options for employment, they would pursue it. But those options do not currently exist in the United States of America. The minimum wage should be raised to at least $15 an hour for adults ages 18 and older. A lower “minimum” would apply to young adults working part-jobs while in high school.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design

The minimum wage is a training wage. It was never meant to be a “living wage.” You cannot keep the best employees at that pay level. Employers know that very well and pay accordingly to keep the best workers. Raising the minimum wage will hurt new hiring and drive up prices at grocery stores, fast-food restaurants and any other places that hire entry-level workers. The customers who frequent those establishments will be charged higher prices to support the 20 percent increase in their cost of labor. Thanks again, Gov. Cuomo, for once again driving up the cost of living in New York!
—George Thomas, Ogden

Where to begin? Increasing the minimum wage will create pay inequities across the board. Is the employer of a secretary earning $12 an hour supposed to increase her salary as well? Assuming employers cannot afford to give every employee a raise, then the gap between a teenager working at McDonald’s and a professional secretary just got a lot smaller. The president and the governor have nothing to lose short-term from enacting a higher minimum wage. They look like heroes, by "giving" lower-paid citizens more money, while it costs business everything and the government nothing. In addition to gaining goodwill and votes, they will also be manipulating certain economic indicators. The headlines will call attention to higher salaries and surmise that the economy is improving. Minimum wage is meant to be a starting point, not the wage that someone needs to earn to make a living for a family. A good pay rate will be the result of hard work and dedication to improving one’s skill set. And oh, by the way, the governor already increased the minimum wage, which is still in the process of being implemented!
—Shelley Tierson

From $7.25 to $10.50 in five years; about 9 percent per year! Another straw on the proverbial camel’s back. Think anyone in Albany is bright enough to be able to figure out how to tie the minimum wage to an inflation index?
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.

Asking small-business owners whether they support a wage hike is asking the wrong constituents. What do you think they’re going to say? Raise wages? They’ll raise the same arguments they’ve raised since the ’30s, all of which have proven to have little merit. It just changes the level of the playing field, but it’s still level!
—Hal Gaffin, Fairport

If you want to punish the poor, raise the minimum wage. The debate over minimum wage continues to rage across the country. But, would raising the minimum wage actually harm the very people it is purportedly designed to help? Image Research shows that businesses would respond to the increased costs by reducing employment, particularly for low-skilled workers. Some businesses may even pass the higher costs on to consumers. Despite the hope of proponents, raising the minimum wage would do little, if anything, to decrease poverty. Here are four reasons NOT to raise the minimum wage: 1. It would result in job loss. Evidence of job losses has been found since the earliest imposition of the minimum wage. The first 25-cent minimum wage in 1938 resulted in significant job losses. Minimum wage increases recently imposed in American Samoa resulted in economic effects so pronounced that President Obama signed into law a bill postponing them. A 2006 review of more than 100 minimum wage studies by David Neumark and William Wascher found that about two-thirds found negative employment effects. In 2010, Joseph Sabia and Richard Burkhauser estimated “nearly 1.3 million jobs will be lost if the federal minimum wage is increased to $9.50 per hour.” 2. It would hurt low-skilled workers. Evidence shows minimum-wage increases disproportionately hurt the people they’re supposed to help. The 2006 Neumark and Wascher review found the literature “as largely solidifying the conventional view that minimum wages reduce employment among low-skilled workers.” A 2012 analysis of the New York State minimum wage increase from $5.15 to $6.75 per hour found a “20.2 (percent) to 21.8 percent reduction in the employment of younger less-educated individuals.” A 2010 analysis by Michael J. Hicks found: “the latest round of minimum wage increases” account “for roughly 550,000 fewer part-time jobs,” including “roughly 310,000 fewer teenagers working part-time.” 3. It would have little effect on reducing poverty. Evidence suggests that minimum wage increases don’t reduce poverty. In the previous federal minimum wage increase from $5.15 to $7.25, only 15 percent of the workers who were expected to gain from it lived in poor households, according to a 2012 review by Mark Wilson. If the minimum were today raised to $9.50, only 11 percent of workers who would gain live in poor households. The 2012 Wilson review noted: “Since 1995, eight studies have examined the income and poverty effects of minimum wage increases, and all but one have found that past minimum wage hikes had no effect on poverty.” The 2012 Wilson review noted: “One recent academic study found that both state and federal minimum wage increases between 2003 and 2007 had no effect on state poverty rates.” 4. It may result in higher prices for consumers. The costs of minimum wage increases must be paid by someone. The 2012 Wilson review noted: A 2004 “review of more than 20 minimum wage studies looking at price effects found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent.” A 2007 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that restaurant prices increase in response to minimum wage increases.
—Devin Michaels, Chili

Are you kidding? Gannett shares (GCI: NYSE) "Monday’s close $36.31." Gannett’s five top executives at $24 million; that’s 660,974.94 shares! Cuomo says there are 37,628 minimum wage workers at $8.75 per hour; $8.75 times all 37,628 minimum-wage workers in the Finger Lakes region. Forty hours of production gets all these workers $13,169,800. At 80 hours of production, that’s two weeks $26,339,600. This may seem a bit unjust to some stockholders unless they have thousands of shares, or maybe at least a bit unfair to minimum-wage workers and to public employees, that Gannett seems to have a bias against perhaps a bit of hypocrisy. Just saying.
—Tim Judd, RCSD

The starting wage is for learning about work and is a transitional phase for young people. It’s not for family raising. Not all jobs are family jobs. Time to wake up to facts. We are not all alike, and government cannot make us all alike.
—John Sackett, Byron

People, even those who work in low-skill jobs need to have money to spend. We don’t even ask this kind of question when the price of gas or automobiles goes up. Why is this even an issue?
—Wayne Donner, Rush

One way to look at is more people may have more disposable income to use so many businesses that pay minimum wage may see more business as a result. Just as important, the raise may allow more families to move off government payrolls and help the state reduce spending. On the flip side, employees may be asked to do more with less if layoffs or other cuts are made.
—Keith Newcomer

There’s a lot of political sniping and punditry about this and other bread and butter issues. I think much of the pressure will moderate as the employment picture improves. A Boston Consulting Group study predicts that the U.S. will become the global low-cost manufacturing center due to cheaper energy, better transportation and the size of its consumer market. Higher skilled workers will be pulled up into this trend. The supply of lower skilled workers will be squeezed and the market will push wages up. We are better off permitting the free market for labor do its work than to arbitrarily push up wages, denying employment to some in the process.
—John Calia, Vistage International

I am a business owner and to be competitive have to offer more than minimum wage along with a benefit package to attract new employees. Does that mean minimum wage does not affect me? Hell no! All increasing minimum wage does is increase all starting wages—even those above the minimum. As a former owner of a retail business hiring high school and college kids with no prior experience, minimum wage hikes directly impacted my pricing. A minimum wage hike without an available lower training wage and welfare reform to get folks off the couch and back to work might be acceptable but only if ALL are included.
—Peter Short, Pittsford

I am not opposed to workers earning a decent, livable wage; I am opposed to tinkering with the market. Let the free market determine what the minimum should be.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

It’s simple math. It will cause less hours and/or layoffs.
—Frank Gerham Jr.

Let’s settle this political feel-good-for-the-Democrats, hot-potato-for-the-Republicans issue once and for all. Let’s go back to the original minimum wage, adjust it for inflation and make it the present minimum wage. Then every year we adjust the minimum wage for inflation. Businesses can now plan better and Democrats can take all the credit. My "dollar fries" might go down from $1.49 to $1.19.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.

Opponents have been arguing the same points since I joined the work force more than 50 years ago. I have yet to see the hard numbers to support their position. In fact I’ve owned my own business for almost 30 years and always paid above the minimum because I looked for quality over pinching pennies. In my experience, paying a little more paid dividends, my retention rate was excellent and the staff worked as a team. Does paying $10.50 per hour guarantee a better workforce (I doubt it) but I think it promotes a better work environment and slows the revolving door. Retraining new help is not cheap.
—Peter Bonenfant, Fairport

It seems there are two problems: 1. Too many workers with dependents who can’t find a higher paying job than minimum wage. 2. Minimum wage is not enough to live on for these people. Why are so many in this predicament? First is the lack of good paying manufacturing jobs. New York with high taxes, high regulation and high minimum wage has driven out over a million jobs since 1980. For many they got a late start developing a good work ethic, because they couldn’t find an entry level job to get the initial experience to start moving up the success ladder. With a lower minimum wage over the years there would have been jobs available for the young workers. So another increase in minimum wage only continues this cycle."Stupidity is doing the same thing over and expecting a different result." We need to end this negative spiral or these problems will still be with us in 50 years.
—Dennis Ditch

Why doesn’t Cuomo reduce the tax burden on businesses? Then people will be able to afford to live here. In raising minimum wage, you are lowering the buying power of those who make above minimum. Prices will rise to cover the increased costs of paying that employee more. These costs are Social Security employer match, New York unemployment insurance, federal unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation insurance. How can one stay in business without increasing costs to cover their expenses? Let’s not forget the hammering that all businesses on fourth quarter 2014. Every business had to pay a percentage of their payroll up to $86 per employee, because New York State didn’t have the money to, pay their federal unemployment costs. Midyear businesses are hammered with our percentage of the bond interest that was taken out for extended unemployment benefits. Our elected officials think that businesses are one big open pocket book. When does it stop? When no one’s hiring? Cuomo should be thinking how to reduce the tax burden on businesses so that more companies will want to locate here and hire people.
—Jennifer Apetz, Ferrel’s Garage

I support it as long as there are tax incentives for the employers. I have many friends who would be impacted as business owners. Short-term would be a hard transition. The current wage does not allow someone to pay for an apartment and car, which are both needed here in Rochester to work. Forget homeownership at minimum or just about minimum for a married couple.
—Kim Pandina, Panda Wear

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