BALCONY - Business and Labor Coalition of New York

Imagine trying to survive in New York City on less than $15,000 a year. That is what a person making the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour earns for a full-time job. It’s time to do something about that.

At legislative hearings across the state in recent days, New Yorkers have talked about how they struggle to survive on the minimum pay. A woman said she routinely waits until after 5 p.m. to buy end-of-day bread for her family. A health care worker has to borrow money for her own doctor’s co-payment. A waiter survives on his restaurant’s leftovers. A woman juggles two full-time minimum wage jobs for a 70-hour workweek.

State legislators should approve a bill by the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, that would raise the minimum wage in the state to at least $8.50 per hour in 2013 with annual inflation adjustments after that. The increase would raise the income of more than 880,000 workers, who would put virtually all the money right back into the economy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he approves of an increase in the minimum wage — in principle. Backing Mr. Silver’s bill would show that he means it.

This should be an easy sell. Polls show that more than 70 percent of New Yorkers say the nation’s minimum wage (also $7.25 an hour) is too low. The State Senate’s Republican leader, Dean Skelos, keeps arguing mistakenly that any increase would kill jobs. Mr. Skelos may be softening, hinting recently that he might even allow the issue to come to a vote. Legislators from both parties would almost certainly support this measure if it could get around Mr. Skelos and make it to the Senate floor.

The proposed increase is by no means outsized. Washington State recently went to $9.04 per hour, and Connecticut’s minimum is $8.25. In his testimony this month to the Assembly Labor Committee, James Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute reminded legislators that it has been more than 30 years since a worker paid the minimum wage in New York could lift a family of three above the poverty line. Raising the minimum to $8.50 an hour would not end poverty in New York, but it would make a difference for nearly a million people.

Congress should increase the $7.25 minimum nationally and not just leave it to states. And a statewide increase should not affect the New York City Council’s efforts to get higher wages for workers in the city.

RWDSU Statement on Mayor Bloomberg’s Veto of the Prevailing Wage Bill:

Growing income inequality in Michael Bloomberg’s New York City has become a national disgrace. More than forty percent of all income in New York City goes to one percent of the population. Good jobs have been replaced by poverty wage jobs.

The Bloomberg administration’s position on wage mandates is incoherent and fiscally irresponsible. Over the past decade, City Hall has expanded government’s role in the market through billions in taxpayer subsidies to companies and developers but doesn’t want to ensure that taxpayers get a decent return on their investment. That’s unacceptable.

The major legacy of Michael Bloomberg’s administration will be growing income inequality. Too many New Yorkers are struggling to survive.


New York State Minimum Wage Must Be Raised to $8.50

By Lou Gordon, Director, Business and Labor Coalition of New York

The Business and Labor Coalition of New York submitted the following testimony to the New York State Senate Democratic Conference’s Minimum Wage Public Forum on April 18, 2012:

New York needs a minimum wage that helps families struggling to make ends meet. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver unanimously agree on this – and we at the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, BALCONY, heartily agree with them in principle.
However, we believe that simply raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 is not enough. We, like the Fiscal Policy Institute, believe the state must increase, enact and phase-in $10 an hour minimum wage, starting at $8.50 and gradually increasing to $10 in 2014.

It is a common sense approach that both business and labor can – and must – support.

More than 1.6 million New Yorkers – about one in every six workers in New York City and other parts of the state – would see their hourly wages increase to $10 an hour over three years, from approximately $15,080 a year at $7.25 an hour; to $17,680 a year under an $8.50 wage, and to $20,800 a year with a $10 hourly wage.

The reality is that even at $10 an hour, the base salary is still below the federal poverty line of $22,040 for a family of four.

It should be noted that 88% of the workers who would be affected by a higher minimum wage are adults – and most are in retail. The increase also would help those that need it most – women, blacks and latinos, who disproportionately make up most of the workers at minimum wage.

Most importantly, and contrary to claims from the groups that always oppose raising the minimum wage that it will kill jobs, the Fiscal Policy Institute says a $10 minimum wage will result in more consumer spending and actually create more than 25,000 jobs.

As Director of BALCONY, which represents more than 1000 businesses, trade associations, labor unions and non profits, I urge lawmakers in Albany to go beyond the proposal of a flat increase to $8.50 and pass the phased-in $10 hourly wage.

The time to do this is now: New York’s minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation over the last four decades and gone up by just a dime in the last five years.

The lingering recession has made it difficult for low– and middle–wage workers to get a pay raise to properly support themselves and their families.

As James Parrott, Director and Chief Economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute notes: “Our lowest-paid workers need a raise, and a boost will not only promote economic recovery, but ensure that the benefits of the recovery are more broadly shared.”

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia already have minimum wage levels at $7.25. Washington State, which leads the nation with a $9.04 minimum wage, and seven other states have a system that adjusts the rate to stay apace with consumer price increases.

As for the tired old argument that minimum wage hikes kill jobs, research shows that increases in San Francisco, C.A. and Santa Fe, N.M., not only helped workers, but didn’t wipe out jobs. Likewise, Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut haven’t lost jobs to New York by dint of having a higher minimum wage.

We must finally put aside the cries of “wolf” from Republicans and anti-labor interests and pass a minimum wage that will allow working men and women to better support their families and to enjoy the economic benefits that will come from putting more money into the hands of consumers.


BALCONY Supports Higher New York State $10 Minimum Wage Proposal of Fiscal Policy Institute

BALCONY today (Monday) announced its support for a phased-in $10 an hour minimum wage for New York State workers as proposed by the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) in a report released today: The Case for Raising the Minimum Wage. (FULL REPORT)

“New York State needs a minimum wage that helps families who are struggling to make ends meet,” stated Alan Lubin and Robert Hayes, BALCONY co- chairs. “During the current economic upheaval it is time for our state to provide a wage floor that is realistic. Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo and Speaker Silver all agree that people cannot live on $7.25 an hour. BALCONY supports a $10 an hour phased-in minimum wage which will result in additional consumer spending that, according to FPI, will create more than 25,000 jobs.”

“This new $10 minimum wage proposal is a common sense approach which both business and labor can and should support,” concluded Lubin. He noted that more than 1.6 million New Yorkers would see their hourly wages increase to $10 an hour over three years. According to FPI, most of the workers who would be directly affected by a higher minimum wage work in retail. 88% of the workers are adults and 12% teenagers.

Mark Jaffe, President of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce and a BALCONY member, has indicated that he supports a raise in the minimum wage as well.

New York Must Finally Raise the Minimum Wage
It’s getting tougher and tougher for low-income people to afford the basics

By Michael Bloomberg And Sheldon Silver
Thursday, February 2, 2012, 4:09 AM

It’s time to raise the minimum wage.

Over the past several years, the cost of living in New York — like nearly everywhere else — has gone up, but for New Yorkers at the bottom of the economic ladder, one thing has remained unchanged: the minimum wage.

Given today’s high cost of living, it is unrealistic to expect a working person, much less a family, to afford rent, groceries, clothing, heating, phone, transportation, child care — and be able to save for the future — on $290 a week. If the minimum wage does not allow someone to afford even the most minimal of expenses, the incentive to work is diminished.

Social safety net programs and policies — including the minimum wage — should always incentivize and reward work, because a job is the single most effective anti-poverty tool ever created. That’s why both Democrats and Republicans have strongly supported the Earned Income Tax Credit, which incentivizes work by giving low-wage workers a negative tax rate. That is, rather than paying income taxes, they receive a check from the IRS. That extra money encourages people to take low-wage jobs by increasing the financial rewards of working.

Like the EITC, the minimum wage helps those who are trying to help themselves. And it helps taxpayers by reducing the number of people who might otherwise have to rely on public assistance to survive. Taxpayers benefit when government dependency is low — and so does the economy.

Eighteen other states — including Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont — as well as Washington, D.C., have raised their minimum wages above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. In addition, 10 states index their minimum wages to inflation to ensure that their real values do not erode as the cost of living rises.

New York’s minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation over the past 40 years. And over the past five years, it has increased by only 10 cents. Raising the minimum wage will put much-needed cash in the pockets of more than 1.2 million New Yorkers, who will spend those extra dollars in local stores.

While we would prefer the federal government raise the minimum wage to keep us competitive with our neighbors, New Yorkers who are working minimum-wage jobs cannot afford to wait. As the purchasing power of the minimum wage continues to erode, it makes surviving on it that much harder.

The free market is the most powerful tool we have to reduce poverty and spread prosperity. And if the free market were perfect, we would not need any government regulations.

But it isn’t. That is why we have laws prohibiting child labor, ensuring workplace safety and guaranteeing access to emergency health care.

The minimum wage is a vital part of the social safety net. By raising it, we can help more people escape poverty and avoid government dependency — strengthening communities from Brooklyn to Buffalo.

Bloomberg is mayor of New York. Silver is speaker of the state Assembly.

Read more

Editorial: Paying the help, at a minimum
Published 11:01 p.m., Monday, January 30, 2012


Assembly Speaker Silver wants low-wage workers to be paid better.


It would take quite a raise for them to get back to where they used to be.

Here comes a healthy dose of the harsh realities of the real world for New York’s better-off citizens, from progressively inclined politicians to more conservative business interests. They’re about to fight it out yet again over a modest increase in the state’s minimum wage. That will teach them all about hard work with little payoff.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wants to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50. That’s progress, of sorts, but it still doesn’t make amends for government’s long failure to prevent low-wage workers from falling further behind in their unending struggle to at least keep up with inflation.

Don’t be fooled by a recent stretch of inflation so low that it averages out to about 2.8 percent a year since 2004, when the minimum wage was last increased by the Legislature. The minimum wage would be $10.39 an hour by now, if only it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years, according to the National Employment Law Project.

That’s how this needlessly contentious issue needs to be resolved in New York — with further increases tied to inflation, as Mr. Silver proposes, just as they are in eight other states.

But good luck with all that. Here’s Mr. Silver, pushing to give the lowest-paid workers a raise that isn’t as big as other advocates are urging, to, say, $9.50 — while having to fend off the same tired arguments that a few more dollars in the paychecks of the ultimate working grunts will bring on economic havoc.

Here, for instance, is Tom Libous of Binghamton, the No. 2 Republican in the state Senate, claiming that it was the last increase in the federal minimum wage — phased in between 2007 and 2009 — that brought about the nation’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Really, now?

And here we thought it was the housing bubble and Wall Street’s malfeasance that created such economic despair. We didn’t know that minimum-wage workers had any skin in the real estate game.

Yet we’re now about to hear all over again how more money for the poorest workers means fewer jobs for them.

If only this could be a debate that reflects the actual facts. Research by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, for example, shows that increases in the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour in both San Francisco (way above the California minimum of $6.75) and Santa Fe, N.M., in 2004 helped workers, of course, and without wiping out jobs.

We should, thankfully, be spared one of the arguments that tended to dominate the 2004 debate over raising the state’s minimum wage. The opponents were forever insisting that higher wages here, relatively speaking, would mean that jobs would vanish from New York and reappear in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where the minimum wage would have been lower.

That didn’t happen, of course. Both states, in fact, now have the same minimum wage as New York. Nor did jobs come pouring into New York from Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut, all of which continue to have higher minimum wages.

New York, with the highest levels of income disparity of any state in the country, should do what’s right, and what’s best, for its working poor.

Read more

Raising New York’s Minimum Wage Will Boost the State Economy

1.6 million low-wage workers would benefit; 25,000 jobs created

Raising New York’s minimum wage will boost the economy, helping 1.6 million low-wage
workers and creating 25,000 jobs, according to a new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI). Currently, New York’s minimum wage is the same as the federal $7.25 an hour. There hasn’t been a substantial increase in New York’s minimum in five years, although it rose by 10 cents in July 2009, when the last step of an increase in the federal minimum took effect.

“This is the right time to begin a phased increase in New York’s minimum wage,” said James
Parrott, FPI Deputy Director and Chief Economist and one of the authors of the new report. “Too many New York workers work hard and play by the rules but are just not paid enough to make ends meet. The recession has made it much harder for many low- and middle-wage workers to get a pay hike. Given that much of the projected job growth will be in low-wage jobs, it is essential that New York update its wage floor.”

“Our lowest-paid workers need a pay raise, and a boost will not only promote economic recovery but will help ensure that the benefits of the recovery are more broadly shared,” Parrott added. Earlier FPI reports show that New York’s economic growth over the past twenty years has been extremely polarized and that the average worker has not been sharing in the productivity growth their labors have achieved. New York State’s income distribution is the most polarized of all the states, and the disparities in living standards have grown even sharper due to the recession.

Eighteen states, from Florida to Washington, Maine to Arizona, and the District of Columbia
already have minimum wage levels above $7.25. The state of Washington leads the nation with a $9.04 an hour minimum, followed by Oregon at $8.80 and Vermont at $8.46. These three states and five others also have built an automatic annual increase into their minimum wage systems so that the wage floor regularly adjusts to consumer price increases.

The FPI report makes the case that New York’s minimum wage should be raised to a level that is slightly above the three-person federal poverty threshold, arguing that for nearly two decades (1962-1979) New York’s annualized minimum wage value averaged 108 percent of the three person poverty level. This would mean an increase in three annual steps to reach $10.00 an hour in 2014. Once that standard is achieved, the FPI report urges that New York’s minimum wage be indexed to consumer prices so that its purchasing power keeps up with rising costs in the future.

The report notes that almost all low-wage workers who stand to benefit from an increase in the minimum wage work in retail trade, food services and other local service businesses that do not compete with businesses in other states. Raising the wage floor across the board will not put any individual business at a competitive disadvantage. The retail sector will be affected the most. More than one third of retail workers would benefit, and one in every four workers affected will come from retail. Large retailers with 500 employees or more will be affected the most since they pay wages that average nearly 25 percent less than smaller retailers.

In its detailed analysis of the characteristics of workers who stand to benefit from a minimum wage increase, FPI finds that women and black and Hispanic workers will disproportionately benefit since they are more likely to be low-wage workers. About one in every six workers in New York City and in other parts of the state will benefit from a minimum wage hike.

Ninety percent of those benefiting will be adults, with teenagers accounting for only 10 percent. Low-income families with children stand to benefit significantly since 54 percent of family earnings in families with a low-wage worker and children are earned by the low-wage worker. In all, 1.1 million children in New York live in families where a worker will see higher wages due to a minimum wage hike.

The report estimates that the increased purchasing power of low-wage workers will pump much needed demand into local businesses and communities and will create roughly 25,000 new jobs in New York State over three years.

The new report is available HERE.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

New York State Democrats will propose hike in state minimum wage to $8.50 an hour.

Speaker Sheldon Silver confirms automatic increases will be part of proposal

by Kenneth Lovett

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will unveil a plan on Monday to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour.

Assembly Democrats Monday will propose a hike in the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, the Daily News has learned.

The plan also will include a provision for automatic increases going forward that are tied to inflation, according to sources.

The state’s current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. It has been increased five times since 2000–the last time in 2009, when it automatically went up a dime-an-hour to meet the federal rate.

Raising it to $8.50 an hour would give New York one of the highest rates in the country, only behind such states as Oregon and Washington.

Supporters say it is needed because salaries for low-wage earners have not kept up in recent years with rising consumer costs, while businesses warn it could further hurt a battered economy.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wouldn’t provide specifics, but confirmed to he News that his majority would unveil its plan on Monday at the Capitol.

Silver, who first raised the idea on Jan. 4 in a speech just before Gov. Cuomo’s state-of-the-state address, said at the time an increase would affect 14% of the workforce, or 1.2 million people.

He called an increase the top priority this year for the Assembly Dems.

“Frankly, it is absurd to expect anyone – let alone a working family – to afford the cost of living today and be able to invest in their future on a salary of $7.25 an hour; or $15,000 a year,” Silver said at the time.

Cuomo last week had expressed openness to an increase this year.

He said he has long supported minimum wage increases, but held off taking a position on one this year until a specific plan is proposed.

Senate Republicans are considered the greatest obstacle.

They have long opposed hikes to the minimum wage, saying it hurts job growth.
On Sunday, Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif didn’t take a position.

“Senate Republicans will continue to promote policies that encourage job growth and make New York a more business-friendly state, just as we did last year partnering with Gov. Cuomo,” Reif said.

Mayor Bloomberg, a big-time backer of Senate Republicans, has said he supports a minimum wage hike.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, hailed any hike to worker wages, calling it “an important step forward.”

“The way there can be an economic recovery is to put more money into the hands of the people who have very little,” Appelbaum said. “Every penny they get they are going to spend. It comes back to the economy.”

But many business groups have argued it would lead to job losses and make New York less competitive with neighboring states.

Eighteen states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, currently have higher minimum wage rates than new York.