Time to raise New York’s minimum wage | Editorials

As a New York business owner, I am invested in our workforce and invested in our state’s economy. That’s why I support raising the minimum wage.

Low-paid frontline workers have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and they are getting hit hard by rising prices. If New York lawmakers don’t raise the minimum wage, they will get left behind again. That’s bad for workers and businesses.

The pandemic has made it clearer than ever that businesses paying low wages have more trouble hiring and retaining their workers. A continual cycle of hiring and training new workers is very inefficient and costly for businesses.

Businesses must contend with rising costs for utilities, transportation, supplies, or other expenses, and we don’t get any benefit from these higher costs. But if we pay our workers more, we benefit significantly in return.

We see lower employee turnover, higher productivity and greater customer satisfaction, all of which helps us compete, grow and prosper.

The lowest wage for seasonal warehouse workers at my company, Uncommon Goods, is $20 an hour. The starting wage is higher for our 200 year-round workers.

I know many small business owners who, like me, pay their employees more than the minimum wage and regularly update their pay scales because of the rising cost of living. But businesses need government action as well.

When the minimum wage is raised, workers have more purchasing power, and businesses benefit from the consumer spending boost. Minimum wage hikes go right back into the local economy as low-paid workers generally need to spend their increased earnings on basic expenses. And nothing is more important to sustained job creation than consumer spending.

When the minimum wage is too low it’s unfair to workers, unfair to businesses that pay livable wages, and unfair to taxpayers.

Last year, corporate profits hit a 70-year high. We all end up subsidizing profitable corporations that don’t pay their employees enough to live on because their workers often need government assistance to survive. The minimum wage should maintain a decent wage floor and not reward businesses for paying wages that leave working people in poverty.

In 2016, New York State enacted minimum wage increases to $15 an hour with different regional timetables for upstate, Long Island/Westchester, and New York City, but did not provide for increases after reaching $15. New York City’s minimum wage has been stuck at $15 since 2019 despite sharply rising costs.

Newly amended legislation introduced by Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner would raise the minimum wage regionally and then index the minimum wage with annual adjustments to keep up with the rising cost of living and worker productivity. That would help the hardworking people of our state who are falling behind. And it would help businesses.

Raising and indexing the minimum wage will give businesses more predictable, incremental annual increases to manage, rather than the larger spikes that come about when lawmakers let wages stagnate and then pass overdue increases. It will strengthen the consumer spending that businesses depend on.

A recent Data for Progress poll of likely voters in New York found very strong support across the political spectrum for raising the minimum wage and indexing it. The poll found broad understanding that raising the minimum wage will help workers and businesses: 70 percent agreed that “increasing the minimum wage will help businesses attract and retain workers, improve productivity and customer service, increase consumer spending, and create a healthy economy.”

Raising and indexing the minimum wage will strengthen New York’s economy and has strong public support. It should have strong bipartisan support from lawmakers.

David Bolotsky is the founder and CEO of Uncommon Goods, an online retailer of unique gifts and home products based in Brooklyn. He is a member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.

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