$15 Min. Wage In Southern Tier

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Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing to restore what he calls, ‘economic justice’ by making New York the first state in the nation to enact a $15 dollar minimum wage for all workers.

Law makers and restaurant owners in the Southern Tier met Thursday, January 14 in Big Flats to discuss how the change could effect local business.

Using executive authority, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, would gradually increase the hourly rate: State workers in New York City would earn $15 an hour by the end of 2018; state workers outside of the city would also see wages rise, though more slowly, with rates climbing to $15 by the end of 2021.

All told, some 10,000 workers — about 6.5 percent of the state’s permanent and seasonal work force — would see an increase in pay, according to the governor’s office, with the vast majority of those living upstate or outside the city.

According to several economic studies on the impact of raising the minimum wage, results vary.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, many low-wage workers would increase their family’s income, some seeing their income rise above the federal poverty level.

On the downside for both employees and employers, some jobs would be eliminated to cut costs and the customer experience could change.

Customers could see more self service tablets in restaurants, the elimination of traditional tipping on bills, and potential price hikes in meals.

New York State Senator Tom O’Mara  said the cost to local restaurants is too great of a financial burden.

“These are important small business owners and with this increase,” said O’Mara, “they will be hit with some where between an estimated $30-$50,000 a year.”

Michael Sullivan, owner of the Hill Top Inn Restaurant, said increases in staff wages are over-due, but not the way the governor proposes.

“Our industry is behind the times and we do need to be able to raise those levels for our employees the problem is it’s being done in the wrong way,” said Sullivan. 

Those fighting the steep increase to reach $15 an hour by 20-21 say these jobs are not meant  to be live-

able wages, but rather, stepping stones.

“Minimum wage is designed to be that, a minimum and really an entry level wage for somebody to get experience and move up to a higher wage,” said O’Mara. 

Critics argue the increase hurts businesses, raise prices and is counterproductive for the working poor.

Advocates insist the increase would likely cause a ripple effect across the economy, boosting wages of many Americans.

In the 2016 economic year, employers are left weighing the cost of paying up, or cutting back, with the value of their employee’s work at the center of the debate.

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