People at Work Pick of the Week

June 21, 2014

New York State’s minimum wage is currently $8.00 per hour, but will rise to $8.75 per hour in 2015 and to $9.00 per hour in 2016. The State Legislature is currently considering proposals to increase New York’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by July 2015, and to also allow cities and towns in the state to adopt municipal minimum wages 30 percent higher than the State minimum, or up to $13.13per hour.  The federal minimum wage, fixed at $7.25 per hour since 2009, has failed to keep up with inflation.

Many employers, in particular fast food restaurants and retailers, do not pay their workers enough for them to afford the basic necessities of living, especially in places like New York City where the cost of living is the highest in the country (living in Manhattan costs 2.4 times as much as Buffalo). These employers therefore implicitly rely on public services and income transfers to provide for their workers. The nationwide momentum to re-establish a liveable minimum wage reflects the principle that public services should not indirectly subsidize inadequate wage levels. Adjusted for the cost of living, the minimum wage in New York City is currently the lowest of any major city in the United States.

A minimum wage of $13.13 is likely to benefit New York City’s working poor substantially.  It is estimated that the nearly 1.2 million New York City workers would benefit from the increase, would experience a weekly impact on average earnings large enough to improve their housing stability and health security.