WXXI AM News

Reaction to minimum wage increase taking effect December 31

Dec 27, 2016

Credit Associated Press

The minimum wage is going up at year's end throughout New York state. 

Around New York City, it will go to $10.50 or $11 an hour, depending on the size of the business.

In the rest of the state, it will go to $9.70 an hour, with the plan to raise it to $12.50 by the end of the year 2020.

The regionalized, phased-in increases are part of a plan approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers earlier this year to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15. 

Unshackle Upstate Executive Director Greg Biryla says New York is not making things easier for small businesses.

"No issue, including minimum wage can be seen in a vacuum.  It's not just that you're increasing the minimum wage, it's all the other burdens that New York employers have to deal with," he said.

Biryla says the increase leaves many small businesses with few options.

"They can raise prices, they can hire less or lay off, they can neglect making more investments into their businesses. Or eventually, if the combination of those three things occur, they could close or move," he said.

Bruce Popper, vice president of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, says raising the wage is a good first step in getting people toward self-sufficiency.

"We really have to impact the concentrated poverty in Rochester and Monroe County, and the most effective way to do that is in fact to raise the bottom, raise of the lowest-paid workers," he said.

Popper says the small-business community will find that just as in other cities that have improved the minimum wage, their economies are thriving and not hurt by the increase.

He argues that the union contract with service workers at the University of Rochester, which includes a generous benefits package along with a living wage, could serve as a model for major employers in the city of Rochester.