Press Release

Labor, Business, and Community Coalition Praises Governor’s Pledge to Raise Minimum Wage to $8.75

Advocates urge legislature to approve the Governor’s proposed increase along with cost of living adjustments in future years.

The New York State Minimum Wage Coalition applauded Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday for announcing in his State of the State address that raising the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour was a priority for his administration.

‘The current minimum wage is unlivable,” said Mr. Cuomo. “We propose raising the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the fair thing to do. It is long overdue. We should have done it last year; let’s do it this year.”

More than 1 million low-paid workers in New York would see their wages rise as a result of the increase backed by Mr. Cuomo.

“This year, Albany leaders can create a legacy of economic fairness for New York’s low-wage workers. Governor Cuomo’s championing of a minimum wage increase of $8.75 in his State of the State speech is the first big step,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “Assembly Speaker Silver has demonstrated his commitment to raising the wage throughout his career; and we’re heartened that Senator Klein, last year, introduced legislation identical to Speaker Silver’s bill to raise the minimum wage and index it each year going forward. Labor, community, faith and student groups will keep working hard, until the bill is passed and New York families finally feel the impact.”

“Governor Cuomo should be commended for taking this strong stance on raising the minimum wage,” said 32BJ SEIU President Héctor Figueroa. “More New Yorkers than ever are relying on low-wage jobs to support their families. Raising the minimum wage will give more working families a chance of keeping their heads above water, and will help to spur the economy of our state. The legislature should act to pass the Governor’s proposed increase, along with automatic cost of living adjustments to protect the purchasing power of the minimum wage in future years.”

Raising New York’s minimum wage to $8.75 per hour is an important first step towards ensuring that thestate’s lowest-paid workers can afford basic expenses.

An increase in New York’s minimum wage to $8.75 would place it in the top group of state minimum wages, although other states are likely to raise their wages to that level or above by the time a New York increase takes effect. Washington State and Oregon’s minimum wages are currently $9.19 and $8.95 respectively, and will see further annual increases before a higher New York wage would take effect. Vermont’s wage is currently $8.60, and is increased annually, likely bringing it to $8.75 or more by the time a New York raise takes effect. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois, and California are all expected to consider legislation this year that would raise their state minimum wagerates above $8.75 per hour.

If New York’s minimum wage had kept pace with the rising cost of living over the past 40 years, it would be approximately $10.70 per hour today. Nineteen states already have higher minimum wages than New York’s current rate of $7.25 per hour.

“The current minimum wage is inadequate and an increase will be good for business,” said Melanie Beam, President of Capital District Local First, an independent business alliance in Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Saratoga Counties. “Raising the minimum wage would assure that cash-strapped consumers earn enough to afford the basic goods and services that businesses are eager to sell. It will also level the playing field for small businesses who are already paying wages their employees can live on and keep more dollars circulating in our local economy and our tax base.”

Record numbers of individual businesses and trade associations such as Costco, Hopstop, ABC Home and Carpet, the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, Buffalo First, and Syracuse First have backed an increase. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Crain’s New York Business have also expressed support.

“New York’s minimum wage remains decades out of date because of the failure to regularly update the state wage to keep up with the cost of living.” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. “The state of the state will be much stronger once the Legislature adopts the increase proposed by the Governor.”

“Governor Cuomo’s strong statement on the importance of raising the minimum wage, his strong leadership to put New York’s wage near the top of the nation, and his clear commitment to raise the wage to $8.75 per hour are exactly what our economy needs now,” said Michael Kink, Executive Director of the Strong Economy for All Coalition. “The Legislature should move forward to write this increase into law, with indexing to allow future increases that will match inflation. Together, Governor Cuomo and the Legislature can leave a legacy of economicfairness that will broaden prosperity and make our state’s economy stronger.”

“We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo on thecritical issue of raising the minimum wage,” said Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “With the support of Make the Road New York and our allies, the SEIU, RWDSU, United New York, and New York Communities for Change, minimum wage workers in this state’s car washes, supermarkets and fast food restaurants are taking to the streets right now. They are standing up because no one can live with dignity on $7.25 an hour. Workers actually need far more than the wage increase that has been proposed this legislative session – therefore, it is critical that the legislature also adopt indexing to ensure that the minimum wage keeps up with cost of living. We applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership on this critical issue for working families and the businesses and communities that they support.”

Ten states currently index their minimum wages to inflation each year – widely recognized as a key reform in wage policy. Crain’s New York Business wrote that “Indexing the minimum wage to inflation is logical and would erase the pressure on lawmakers to keep returning to the issue.” Bloomberg News editorialized “Let us hope that states lead the way on the minimum wage, and that they tie increases to the cost of living, making endless rounds of legislation unnecessary.”

“Governor Cuomo should be commended for his vision in calling to raise New York’s minimum wage to $8.75,” said Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “The legislature should move quickly to approve it as part of a package that includes annual adjustments based on the cost of living like ten other states have, to make sure that New York’s minimum wage does not erode in value again.”

Contrary to the myth that most minimum wage workers are teenagers, more than 84 percent of workers that would benefit from the proposed increase are adults over the age of 20. Many support families on this income, but the current minimum wage in New York amounts to just over $15,000 per year for a full-time worker. County-by-county data on the impact on local paychecks of raising the minimum wage to $8.50 is available here.

The boost in wages called for by Mr. Cuomo would go directly back into the state’s economy as low-paid workers spend their paychecks on necessities at local businesses. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that raising New York’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour would generate more than $600 million in new consumer spending, translating to 5,230 new full-time jobs as higher sales lead businesses to hire more employees.

“It’s nearly impossible to survive on $7.25 an hour,” said Myrna Capaldi, a single mother and social services worker from Kingston, NY. “I work hard every day to provide for my daughter, but am forced to wait until 5pm to buy end-of-the day bread on sale. My family deserves much better.”

Past predictions of slower growth or jobs moving across state lines in response to raising the minimum wage have not materialized. And, contrary to myth, the minimum wage is chiefly about large corporations, not mom and pop businesses: 66 percent of low-wage workers across the United States are employed by large corporations like McDonald’s, Walmart and Yum! Brands, not small businesses.

Voters agree that raising the minimum wage is a smart move. A December Quinnipiac University poll showed that 80% of New Yorkers, including 61% of Republicans, support raising the minimum wage.