More than 70 percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll oppose Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to hike the minimum wage for all workers statewide to $15 an hour by 2021.
Cuomo on Monday ramped up his push to increase New York’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. At a rally in Manhattan, he announced an executive action to hike the minimum wage for state university workers to that level and again made the case for a statewide increase for all workers.
The governor’s move affecting SUNY schools—which he said would benefit more than 28,000 workers across the state including nearly 3,000 in the Finger Lakes region—follows hikes for fast-food workers and for state employees. The increase to $15 an hour would be phased in, taking full effect by Dec. 31, 2018, in New York City and July 1, 2021, for the rest of the state.
New York’s minimum wage for all workers rose to $9 the first of the year. Under legislation passed in 2013, the statewide minimum wage rose from $7.25 to $8 an hour on Dec. 31, 2013, and then $8.75 on Dec. 31, 2014. Since July 2009, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour.
Nearly three-quarters of Snap Poll respondents support the boost in New York’s minimum wage to $9.
A year ago, Cuomo tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Legislature to raise New York’s minimum wage to $10.50 an hour. At that time, he said there were more than 37,000 minimum-wage workers in the Finger Lakes region. On Monday, he said 166,398 people in this region—and 2.3 million statewide—earn less than $15 an hour.
“Today’s minimum wage still leaves far too many people behind—unacceptably condemning them to a life of poverty even while they work full time,” Cuomo said Monday. “This year, we are going to change that.”
Opponents say a statewide minimum wage hike to $15 an hour—the first in the nation—would prompt many employers to take steps such as increasing prices, reducing hours for some workers or eliminating jobs.
More than 915 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Jan. 4 and 5. Of those, 13 percent of respondents own a business with employees earning the current minimum wage of $9 an hour.
Do you support or oppose increasing New York’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021?
Do you support or oppose the hike in New York’s minimum wage to $9 an hour from $8.75, effective Jan. 1?
Are you an owner of a business with employees earning the current minimum wage ($9 an hour)?
A typical oversight of many politicians is understanding what the unintended consequences are. A simple review of what’s happening in Washington state will show you. People who work in fast food and have had their wages raised to $15 an hour—in Seattle in particular—have self-imposed reducing their hours worked so that they do not lose supplemental welfare benefits. This does not achieve the goal that the state or city wanted. I would not support any increase in minimum wage unless it was accompanied by rules that would not have this type of unintended consequences.
Who can possibly survive earning less than $15 per hour? We need a living wage. We all complain about too many people on welfare and government subsidies. The only way to break this cycle is with good-paying jobs. Yes, pricing will increase for some products and services. It will be worth it in the long run. Henry Ford understood this and wanted to make sure his employees could afford to buy the cars they built. You can’t buy a car earning $9 an hour plus pay food and rent. Young adults cannot pay for college and repay loans at $9 an hour. Small business drives our economy. This will create more consumers who can afford your products and services. Wake up, America.
—David Wolf, Just Solutions
Every one of our employees earns above the state’s minimum wage. However, our employees have earned such wages based on the delivery of value, not a decision on our part to provide public welfare. Our businesses cannot afford to pay a higher wage just so politicians can be re-elected and so they can perpetuate their ability to stay in office.
I am a business owner and accountant for many small businesses. I see the effects of labor costs rising. It always amazes me when people who don’t have to pay the increase request it. They do not see the cause and effect of such action.
—Joel Stauring, Cunningham, Stauring & Associates Inc.
During the time that Cuomo has been in office, the state of New York has been ranked dead last among the 50 states for business climate. Instead of fixing that problem, he keeps pandering for votes by unilaterally raising wages and destroying the conditions necessary for businesses to thrive and create jobs. No wonder New Yorkers lead the nation in leaving the state and have taken $46 billion in taxable wealth out of his grasp.
The minimum wage was never meant to be a “living” wage, but rather an entry-level wage for inexperienced or unskilled workers. It should be left that way, and maybe indexed for inflation. Today it is impossible to keep good reliable help for the minimum wage. Those employees command much more, and either get it or move elsewhere. My fear is that those making $15 per hour now will demand $6 per hour more if the entry-level wage goes to $15. In turn, everything we buy will increase dramatically in cost since labor usually constitutes the largest portion of the cost of goods and services. Does anyone remember the Carter years, when prices went up almost daily! I do. I remember ordering a new truck, and they wouldn’t even quote me the price until it arrived! And mortgage rates were over 15 percent! Who wants to start that kind of inflation again? This is “feel good” politics that results in disaster. Please tell the governor to stay off the backs of business. New York is already last in the U.S. for jobs.
—George Thomas, Ogden
All people should be able to earn a living wage, instead of having their income supplemented with government subsidies, which come from taxes put on the backs of other middle-income workers, while many corporations record billions in profits year after year.
Here’s an idea. How about the state starting public works projects at $15 an hour offered first to those not working or not earning $15 an hour. Then the private sector will have to compete for workers if the need to.
The cost burden to focus on is government. A living wage will create a community for all.
Please figure where the money will come from. Price increases (affecting consumers’ ability to purchase)? From taxpayers (for SUNY and New York State workers)? From shareholders (adversely affecting your retirement investments)? From a reduction in state spending on social programs (don’t fool yourself, no government ever spends less!) There is no free lunch and a forced reallocation of resources at this level of magnitude will not only be disruptive but will further disadvantage New York State in the competition for employers.
—Dorver Kendig, Webster
As an independent business consultant, I think that $15 an hour is too high for many workers. It puts New York state at a competitive disadvantage. It will cause many businesses to leave the state and leave low-skill, undereducated workers even more starved for jobs.
—Frances Reese, Reese Environmental Consulting LLC
Raising the minimum wage is great politics, but poor economics. The ultimate result of these moves will be to increase the amount of poverty in our community.
Fifteen dollars an hour is Gov. Cuomo and the Democrats’ way of compensating for all of the high-paying full-time jobs that they ran out of the state and country that will never return. A part-time job was never meant to be something that you could live on. Small businesses will suffer or close and larger companies will compensate with more automation. In the end we’ll be paying more for the cost of goods and services and a lot of part-time jobs will go away and never return.
—Barry W. Alt, A2Z Enhanced Digital Solutions
I support more training opportunities and schooling so residents can make more than $15 an hour on their own. Like many, I do believe moving to $15 an hour will lead to job cuts in every sector. This also has to be done without raising taxes, as New York needs to do everything in its power to lower taxes. Fingers crossed it all works out.
Market forces and border closing along with deportation of illegals will do much more to raise low wages.
—Terry Palis, Corporate Communications Inc.
People need to be able to support themselves with one job. Since the so-called “job creators” are on vacation in the yachts or foreign villas, government must step in to resolve this issue. I think that doing it ONLY for SUNY employees at an increased schedule is wrong, as are “perks” for governmental executive, judicial and legislative positions. We don’t need an entitled ruling class; we need equity.
The minimum wage is a myth. The minimum wage for income purposes may be $9 per hour, although the social safety net that our society provides in the form of health care, rental subsidies, VA programs, food stamps, educational scholarships, and many other things insures that almost no one has to live on a minimum wage. If the minimum wage goes up and any of those safety net subsidies go down because of disqualification based upon higher earnings—where is the advantage to those workers affected? An increase in minimum wage by two-thirds over five years means that automation increasingly becomes more viable. Finally, if wages are set to automatically increase for the next five years for those between $9 and $15 per hour, then an employer is less likely to give merit increases to anyone earning less than $20 per hour. Why are no merit increases a plus to either employer or employee? If the earned income tax credit were raised substantially and there was a higher base for alternative minimum income tax then the employee would wind up with more in a weekly paycheck and the employer would not have to reduce the workforce to pay for a two-thirds increase in minimum wage.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour will definitely put a financial hardship on our business. It’s not just the wages but the additional FICA taxes, unemployment insurance and especially the worker’s compensation, which is already very expensive in New York. We cannot be competitive with out-of-state businesses that do not have to pay anywhere near as much insurance as we do here in New York. Additionally, did anyone bother to look into the reality of the cities out West that did this on a much smaller scale, and the problems they have encountered? My cousin lives out West in one of the areas that raised minimum wage for the city. As someone who runs a business for a living and tries to balance employee needs with being able to make a profit so we can stay in business, I think that the legislature in this State does not care one iota about the state’s small business owners, but when you drive them all out, you’ll be crying for those tax dollars back! This state needs some non-career politicians in Albany who have worked their way up through the ranks over their life and understand the struggles from both sides. People who are used to watching their personal and company’s budgets to balance the business environment financially. People who are able to determine the difference between wants and needs to make decisions that meets the needs of both parties so that everyone is successful. Fiscal responsibility is not always politically correct, but a healthy business environment in the long run will benefit everyone in this state. We need to stop heading the opposite direction! I don’t care about politics—I want results that benefit the majority of people and businesses in this state so that one of the most beautiful, diverse states in this nation can thrive again.
Again, Gov. Cuomo is stomping on the state constitution. His pandering to the far left on this issue is dictatorial. Ironically, he will be hurting the people he is seeking to help. Even the Congressional Budget Office has agreed with most economists that minimum wage increases will kill jobs and encourage price increases. The job decreases will be aimed at unskilled or other entry-level job employees. The minimum wage was not meant to be a living wage but a training or pathway wage. Ironically, on a national basis only 19 percent of proposed minimum wage increases will go to those households below the poverty level, while 29 percent goes to households earning more than 300 percent over the poverty level. Furthermore, Gov. Cuomo’s unilateral decision to increase New York State and SUNY workers’ pay without prudent collective bargaining is an insult to taxpayers and may be malfeasance. Hopefully, Preet Bharara (U.S. attorney in Manhattan) and the U.S. Department of Justice will add this to their list in the reported ongoing criminal investigation of the governor’s conduct.
The minimum wage hike does nothing but decrease benefits for employees or remove the employee from service. We as business owners have to watch costs. More work for others is an option when wages cut into profits or the bottom line. People are hired based on the expertise they offer to the employer. If the employee wants more pay the employee can gain experience, go back to school for the skill needed, work more than one job.
—Linda Judd, Marilynn’s Learning Farm and Garden
What will happen to all those generous employers who hire and train folks who have handicaps—folks who are productive and loyal but simply cannot perform at the same productive level as the more able bodied? Will those jobs go away because they become too expensive to maintain?
Why stop at $15 an hour? Why not make the minimum wage … $1,000 an hour, or more? Timid souls like Andy Cuomo and the little dictator in the White House bypass the legislature because they know they could never get their pet projects passed by utilizing the legislative process, which they swore an oath to do; i.e., adhering to the will of the people through their elected representatives. Their government interventionist approach into the labor market by offering $15 worth of pay for $8 worth of work will compel business owners to reduce their current staffing to contain costs, delay hiring any new staff, and turn faster toward technology to improve their efficiency at a lower cost. For proof, please observe the restaurant industry’s movement toward tablets on tables for ordering and bill paying vs. wait staff. Government’s ill-conceived, misguided approach harms the very constituency they are intending to help, while simultaneously raising the cost to businesses to effectively compete. Everybody loses! The
effect will be greater unemployment and barriers to entry-level jobs at small and large businesses across the state and country. Higher prices will be the outcome for some businesses. As they raise prices, patronage will likely suffer causing a loss of profits and value to stakeholders leading to more layoffs and cutbacks. Most politicians do not understand capitalism, nor do they want to because it destroys their narrative that government is the solution. If the workforce wants higher wages, bring more valued skills to the table. It’s insanity, but, then again, not unexpected in a dictatorship.
—Bill Simpson, Irondequoit
The current minimum wage is not a living wage based on our current economy.
—Ken Pamatat, Creative Images
In the end, it is the customers who decide what the price of anything is, including labor. If the wages drive the price of a “McBurger” above what most will pay, then management will take steps to lower costs so they can reduce prices, so the stated wage will be high but there will be many fewer earning it. I don’t believe there is $15 of value in the work performed in an hour by most minimum wage workers. And the argument of boosting demand is bogus. It is confiscating money from business owners and entitling it to others.
I wish this type of initiative was in place when I was making $5.35 an hour in 1999! Inflation-adjusted for today, I was paid $7.62 an hour. If the minimum wage becomes $15 in 2021, that is $13.77 an hour in today’s dollars. Are the minimum wage workers in 2021 projected to be 45 percent more productive than they are today?
Forcing businesses to raise the minimum wage will only lead to a loss of jobs. It is simple mathematics.
—Frank Gerham Jr.
Cannot afford minimum wage increase.
—Lonnie and Joan Jones, Indian Pines Farm Market, Penn Yan
The public has become convinced by liberal politicians that raising the minimum wage will help to alleviate poverty. A review of BLS data reveals that 89 percent of minimum wage earners are second wage earners in a household—working mothers or students living with their parents, for example. In other words, they are not living in poverty. Raising the minimum wage does little to support those most in need, the chronically unemployed. A better solution for them would be to adjust the earned income tax credit. Why haven’t we heard anything about that?
—John Calia, Fairport
All employers have to cover the costs related to employing someone. These costs are based on payroll. State unemployment insurance, federal unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation insurance ,Social Security expense. These mandatory expenses don’t leave much for health insurance, paid vacation, retirement plan match or any other type of benefit. Yes, prices will go up! Yes, people could lose their job, requiring other employees to take on this work at no additional pay. Yes, employees who don’t receive a raise because they are making above the minimum will see their "buying power" decrease. The government will see more money going into their coffers because of the raise in the minimum. It would be nice if the government would actually cut costs for businesses with all these mandates. Then you might find that people would actually have a better chance at being employed at a living wage. Instead of fueling inflation.
—Jennifer Apetz, Ferrel’s Garage
Just another scheme from Cuomo to increase tax income by misleading New Yorkers into believing that it will improve their lives. There should never be a government mandated "minimum wage." It should be market controlled. Workers will want to go where the pay is the best.
—Dan Zarpentine, chef/owner, Zarpentine Catering
If we had kept pace with inflation since the 1970s, the current minimum wage would be more like $22 to $23 an hour. Most of the arguments against increasing the minimum-wage are bogus; just look at several increases going back 40 years, and at no time did the increase hurt the business community nor low-wage workers; i.e., businesses failed because of the increases or those at the bottom rung of the ladder unable to find jobs etc.
—Peter Bonenfant, Fairport
With our labor participation rate at a 30-year-low and our average annual per capita income stagnant for seven years, now is not the time to raise the minimum wage. We need an entry wage to help young workers get their first jobs. Look to see what Texas does to increase jobs. Many small- to medium-size businesses can’t afford a $15 minimum wage. With a minimum wage of $15, our exports will certainly increase—our exports of jobs to other states and to other countries.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services PC
It’s simple basic economics. Businesses will scale back on hiring if the cost per employee increases. Otherwise, it will raise prices to compensate. These do-good ideas are usually supported on emotions instead of reality.
—Todd Black, Black’s Hardware
Paying $15 an hour for work that is valued at $9 an hour means the job goes away. Let’s try something new. Let’s make New York a business-friendly state. Let’s hold on to the jobs we have and draw in new business. This would increase demand for workers, which would raise wages. This will only happen with lower taxes and less regulation. The biggest obstacle to this idea is the loss of power by politicians. Gov. Cuomo couldn’t decide winners and losers, because the market would do that.
1/8/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email email@example.com.