The minimum wage is going up next week in New York. The increase is part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's multi-year phase-in plan for an eventual $15 statewide minimum wage for all workers.
The #FightFor15 began in November 2012, when more than 100 fast-food workers in New York City walked off their jobs, striking for higher wages, better working conditions and the right to form a union without retaliation from their managers.
Rallies for the cause have become common throughout upstate New York, where the minimum wage will rise to $9.70 from $9.
Ron Deutsch is executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute: "That's gonna affect nearly 900,000 workers in upstate New York. So they will see an improved quality of life and will be able to hopefully escape poverty."
The most significant hike affects New York City, where the wage will rise from $9 to $11 per hour, although the increase will be smaller for employees of small businesses. Their wages will increase to $10.50 an hour.
In Westchester County and on Long Island, the minimum wage will rise to $10 an hour. Zack Hutchins is with the Business Council of New York State: "When the push for the $15 an hour minimum wage started gaining steam, one of our esteemed colleagues in the business world, the folks at the Empire Center, put together a study that said that a $15 an hour minimum wage would cause job losses anywhere from 200,000 to 600,000 once fully implemented. Obviously we didn't end up getting a $15 an hour wage statewide yet, but we're still having a very significant increase."
Regionalized, phased-in increases are components of a plan approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers earlier this year to gradually bring the wage to $15. "And just last week we saw U.S. census population estimates, which showed that in the first time in over a decade, New York state lost population year over year. And while you can't attribute that to any one thing, certainly the bulk of the reporting and the analysis that's come out afterward has said that it's easy to attribute that population loss to anti-business practices that have driven businesses and then people out of the state and a minimum wage increase that will end up being a $15 billion impact on statewide employers certainly plays into that."
Deutsch has a different point of view: "I think in reality what you're gonna see is actually benefits to employers, 'cause you're going to see reduced turnover, you're going to see more productive employees. At the same time they're also going to see increased consumer spending. So as people have more money to spend, they're going to spend it in local stores and in their local communities. So that's good for the economy, that's good for business and that's good for people."
On December 31st last year, New York's upstate minimum wage went up 25 cents an hour, from $8.75 to $9. Upstate, law requires the minimum wage to reach $12.50 an hour by the end of 2020. New York City's minimum wage will hit $15-an-hour for most businesses by December 2018.