A Labor Day Recipe For New York

In the aftermath of laws enacted three years ago year in California and New York to begin raising the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour, labor researchers examined what this huge wage increase would mean for jobs.

The study found that New York could stand to lose upwards of 434,000 jobs once the minimum wage hike is fully implemented by 2022.

Alarming, to say the least, but we’re already seeing its impact in New York City, where the minimum wage rose to $15 an hour at the beginning of 2019. Businesses (especially small businesses) are having to raise prices, cut hours, and implement layoffs. This trend will spread throughout the state as the $15-an-hour minimum wage is phased in regionally.

During the 2016 minimum wage debate, a report from the Empire Center for Public Policy singled out job loss numbers for the Southern Tier. On the high end, it’s a staggering 18,800 lost jobs (6.9 percent). Dire predictions didn’t only come from think tanks like the Empire Center. In fact, they mostly came straight from middle-class small businesses on Main Street, and farms, and schools, and nursing homes, and social service providers, and the tourism industry, and many others.

I strongly opposed the action at that time. I said that any attempts by those in favor of the $15-an-hour minimum wage to drown out opposition voices with false anti-worker rhetoric or anything like it were not only flat-out wrong, they were purposely ignoring the other side of the story.

The New York Farm Bureau, the voice of nearly 40,000 farm families locally and statewide, strongly opposed a $15-an-hour minimum wage. It worries farmers who will be hardest hit. On top of the coming higher minimum wage, this year farm families were hit with a radical “fair labor practices” law that will only add to their costs.

It also worries small businesses and restaurant owners on Main Street. It worries social service providers like NYSARC and others. Let’s not forget the voices of local school districts who have said that it could lead to local school district employee layoffs or program cuts.

Again, for the record, I fully voiced my strong opposition three years ago to raising the statewide minimum wage by nearly 70 percent. I wasn’t opposed to an increase, but the massive increase that was rammed through, a nearly 70-percent increase, wasn’t reasonable or fair or sustainable. It will work against the workers it was supposed to help.

It’s already happening in New York City, less than a year after the higher wage took effect.

The minimum wage action needed and deserved a full-fledged, commonsense, honest, straightforward examination. The unrelenting push to make New York the first state in America to mandate the highest-in-the-nation minimum wage on every employer statewide – and especially small, upstate, middle-class, and already struggling-to-survive small businesses, farmers and others – wasn’t fair.

Now what? At the very least, we have a responsibility to double-down on some long-overdue actions. We can only hope that this governor and the new Democrat-controlled Legislature, comprised of so many ardent $15 advocates, will finally put equal time, equal effort and equal vigor into a new campaign for across-the-board, commonsense tax relief, mandate relief, and regulatory reform. We need an equally vigorous commitment to turning around New York’s nearly dead-last business climate and sparking real hope for a long-term, sustainable economy for more and more workers and farmers and small businesses and families across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions.

That’s where the discussion must go from here.

It’s more urgent now than ever before.A

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