New York’s minimum wage would increase to more than $20 an hour by 2026 if a bill in Albany is successful.
Known as “Raise Up NY,” it would raise the minimum wage over the next three years and index it each year after to match inflation. It would increase wages for almost three-million workers, or about a third of the state’s workforce, by 2024.
Some opponents argued a higher minimum wage would discourage people from seeking better jobs.
Sen. Jessica Ramos, D-Jackson Heights, who is spearheading the legislation in the Senate, pointed out some people do not have a choice. She feels the perception of minimum-wage workers isn’t entirely true.
“Everybody seems to think that it still is true that fast-food workers are kids working after school,” Ramos observed. “But we know that a lot of these workers are actually the main breadwinners in their family. They are even older people who should be on the path to retirement.”
The Economic Policy Institute said more than half the workers who would be affected by the legislation are parents.
Some companies are voicing concerns higher labor costs would hurt their bottom line. Ramos countered it is wrong for the state to build its post-pandemic economic recovery on the backs of low-wage workers while inflation is at an all-time high.
While New York state’s minimum wage has been at or around $15 an hour since 2019, many feel it needs to catch up with current inflation. A report from the National Employment Law Project finds a stagnating wage could erase the benefits earlier increases created.
Ramos emphasized indexing the minimum wage over time could benefit businesses, too.
“By pegging it to inflation, you are allowing businesses, especially small businesses, to be able to plan ahead, to know what those annual increases might be,” Ramos stressed. “That often actually results in better retention of workers.”
She added the bill has strong bipartisan support. In a 2022 poll, 70% of likely voters said they believe workers need to earn at least $20 an hour “to live at a decent level.” The bill is currently in committee.
Edwin is a reporter and producer in North Tonawanda, New York. He’s previously reported for the Niagara Gazette and the Ithaca Times. Edwin got an early start in radio interning for WBFO-88.7FM, NPR’s Buffalo affiliate. In 2018, he graduated from SUNY Buffalo State College with a B.A. in Journalism, and in 2022, graduated from Syracuse University with an M.S. in Communications.