JOBS AND THE ECONOMY - LABOR: Minimum Wage
There has been much discussion lately regarding the minimum wage. The last increase to the Federal Minimum Wage was 7 years ago, in 2009, to $7.25. The Federal Minimum Wage for tipped workers has not been raised since 1991 and stands at $2.13. In New York State, we have increased our Minimum Wage, at the end of 2015, to $9.00 per hour. The NYS Minimum Wage for tipped workers is $7.50 per hour. New York City, Long Island and Westchester have higher minimum wages than the rest of the State. We are fortunate in Western New York to live in a state where our Governor has taken the lead on this issue and recently passed legislation to increase the minimum wage over the next five years.
However, there is growing economic inequality that goes hand-in-hand with a shrinking middle class and stagnant wages. We all know about the wealthiest 1% of Americans and how they have been the beneficiaries of economic gains; and yet, the middle class has had to struggle making ends meet. It is not feasible for an individual to put in 40 hours per week in a job that pays $7.25 per hour. There is little left to put food on the table, pay rent/mortgage, clothe and support a family. Our working families have to get second jobs to be able to supplement their wages. If you are a single parent with children, it is an even greater burden on a minimum wage paycheck. The argument that not raising the minimum wage only incentivizes workers in entry level jobs to get more training is totally off base. It only keeps people in poverty at sub-standard wages. Without the ability to pay for college or trade schools, the cycle of poverty continues from one generation to the next.
As a small business owner and CEO of a manufacturing company, I have found that by increasing the minimum wage for an entry level position at my shop has helped to keep my employees. Also, by increasing their pay in a yearly review process, has given me a core group of workers who stay with the company and take pride in their work. My employees are family, friends and neighbors who live in my community. If we do not do well, then our communities will weaken and the disparity between economic inequalities will widen. If we succeed in narrowing that gap, and an increase in the minimum wage is one way of doing that, then we will all have vibrant communities to live and work in. This is what we do as Americans, this is who we are!