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Wage hikes take effect for workers

January 8, 2016
By Jimmy McCarthy ( , Westfield Republican

Multiple wage hikes took effect Jan. 1 for a wide range of New York workers.

The state's minimum wage will rise from $8.75 to $9 in the last of three annual rate changes. In 2013, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that phased in a minimum wage increases from $7.25 to $9.

With Cuomo's approval, fast-food workers and public sector employees outside New York City will see a jump in wages to $9.75 today, $10.75 next December and $15 in 2021. The governor's administration also approved an increase in hourly rates for tipped workers to $7.50 in the hospitality industry, $7.65 in other industries when tips are at least $1.35 per hour and $6.80 in other industries when tips are at least $2.20 per hour.

In a push to raise hourly rates to $15, Cuomo said a full day's work should result in an honest and livable wage. New York would be the first state in the nation to implement a $15 minimum wage across all industries, following suit with implemented increases in the public sector and fast-food industry.

"I am proud to be fighting for fair pay in New York and we will not stop until all workers are paid the decent wages they deserve," he said. "By raising the minimum wage for state workers, we are leading by example and ensuring that thousands of workers are better able to provide for their families."

An estimated 200,000 fast-food workers and 2,000 state workers will benefit from the minimum wage increase, according to the governor's office.

More than 2.3 million New Yorkers, and roughly 1.4 million workers living outside New York City, would directly benefit from the governor's proposal of a $15 minimum wage for all industries.

The governor's unilateral minimum wage increase in the private and public sectors will be the topic of much discussion, said state Sen. Cathy Young, R-C-I-Olean.

With legislative session drawing near, Young said the governor's moves will be reviewed.

"When we convene on Jan. 5, the Senate will begin an intensive analysis to determine the best course of action," Young said.

Assemblyman Andy Goodell said New York state must cut its taxes and the costs of doing business to grow jobs instead of "chasing employers out of state" through minimum wage increases. Goodell, R-C-I-Jamestown, said a minimum wage increase in the fast-food industry will drive up consumer costs while a 10 percent jump in wages for state employees will cost taxpayers around $20 million.

"Of course, every state worker who earns a couple dollars more than the lowest paid worker will also want a raise. It will have a multiplier effect on the cost of state government, resulting in higher costs to every taxpayer," Goodell said. "As a result of (the governor's) actions, the minimum wage for entry-level, fast-food restaurant workers will be more than double the national minimum wage."

Goodell said he supports legislation that would eliminate the governor's ability to circumvent the state Legislature to approve wage hikes. Such legislation, however, faces an uphill battle in the Assembly.

"The New York City Democratic Party is firmly in support of wage increases regardless of the number of jobs that are lost or the impact on taxpayers," he said.



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