Assembly pushes for $9.00 minimum wage

Posted at: 02/14/2013 11:46 PM
By: Dan Levy

ALBANY - After seeing an increase of only a dime in the last six years, there is reason for optimism for millions of minimum wage earners across the state. On Thursday, state assembly leaders said they want to make New York's minimum wage $9.00 an hour, a 24% increase.

If there is a new minimum wage, where ever it winds up, it will most certainly have an impact on peoples' lives and businesses.

You'd be hard pressed to find any wage earner adverse to a minimum wage pay raise, especially if you ask them at the gas pump.

"Everything is going up," said Skip Robertson of Albany, filling up his car outside a Menands Stewart's Shop. "Regardless of which way you look, everything is going up, everything but the pay check."

Fortunately for wage earners like Robertson, the man with the bully pulpit, Governor Andrew Cuomo, is in his corner. In his State of the State Message last month, Mr. Cuomo proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 an hour.

"It's the right thing to do, the fair thing to do, and it's long over due," the governor proclaimed, drawing loud applause inside the Empire State Convention Center on January 9th.

On Thursday, assembly leaders one-upped the governor, proposing a $9.00 state minimum wage.

"We're in for a negotiation," predicted Assemblyman John McDonald (D -Cohoes). "I think you'll see an increase. I think it'll be over a period of time and it'll probably be up near that nine dollar an hour."

McDonald finds himself in a unique position. As a business owner himself, a minimum wage hike would mean incurring higher business expenses.

"Some business owners will use that as an excuse to raise prices," he suspects, "Some will not."

Stewarts Shops, which employ 4,000 workers, would certainly be impacted on a larger scale. Company spokesman Tom Mailey says, "It's about time New York raised its minimum wage."

And then there are companies like Price Chopper, the Schenectady-based supermarket chain of 125 stores, that employs 24,000 workers, about a quarter of them under the age of 21.

"To implement a pay raise for all of them in one fell swoop is a big pill to swallow," according to company spokeswoman Mona Golub. "It prompts raising wages for more experienced employees as well and it'll have a huge impact on the cost of doing business. It will be a hardship."

Golub goes on say: "It will definitely affect the cost of bringing goods to market because if we incur millions of dollars in additional expenses, it forces us to look at the rest of our business to see where we can but. It might be cutting part time hours or increasing the cost of goods, or a combination of both."

Meanwhile, Sheryl Donald of Albany says she wouldn't mind paying a few dollars more if poor people earned a little more.

"People have to live and they have to be able to live comfortably," she says, "They need to feed their families and pay their rent and pay their utilities. I think it's only fair."

The legislation introduced Thursday would increase New York's minimum wage to $9.00 an hour in January 2014. Then beginning in 2015, the minimum wage will be indexed, which means it'll be adjusted for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index.