How These Businesses Hope To Stop The $15 Minimum Wage

Connor D. Wolf

A coalition of business and labor groups launched a campaign Wednesday in opposition to New York raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The main goal of Minimum Wage Reality Check Campaign is to educate state residents. The coalition hopes to inform New York about the negative consequences of a $15 minimum wage. It argues the raise will cause job-loss, higher costs for goods and services, and new fiscal stresses on local governments and non-profits. Lou Santoni, president of the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, notes the impact will be especially bad for upstate businesses.

“Further increasing the minimum wage will have a negative impact on Upstate businesses, the people they employ, and the products we purchase from them,” Santoni said in a statement “A $15 minimum wage will put us at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states such as Pennsylvania. When considering the cost of doing business, employers will look to create jobs there instead of New York.”

The Greater Binghamton Chamber is just one of 26 organizations within the coalition. At the moment the state minimum wage is $8.75 an hour. A proposal announced Sept. 10 by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo would gradually bring it to $15 throughout the state by 2021.

The coalition is not the first to warn against New York increasing its minimum wage to $15 an hour. The New York State Association of School Business Officials warned Oct. 30 that the proposal could cost state school districts $276 million. The New York Farm Bureau, which is a member of the coalition, said Monday it would cause severe stress on farmers and higher food prices.

“New York Farms are simply unable to afford a $15 minimum wage in this day of national and global competition that already lead to razor thin margins,” Farm Bureau President Dean Norton said in a statement. “The governor’s proposal will increase the costs on farms across the state by $500 million dollars, when our business environment is already suffering. This is not the way to invest in the upstate and rural economy in New York”

The statewide proposal is just the latest in a campaign to raise the minimum wage in the state. Back in July the state commission on labor approved a plan to raise wages for fast-food workers to $15 an hour. The commission allows for industry specific minimum wages. To get a statewide minimum wage, however, Cuomo will need approval by the state legislature. Republicans, who tend to oppose the $15 minimum wage, hold a majority in the state Senate.

Each side has already been mounting an offensive. While critics warn of job loss and economic stress, supporters say the $15 minimum wage will help the poor by allowing them to more easily afford basic necessities. The increased spending would then in turn stimulate economic activity.

Rumors began circulating Oct. 7 that Cuomo was planning to call a special session in December to force through the $15 minimum wage. The session would be held before the election to help get some Republican approval. Cuomo denied the claims after business groups began voicing their concerns.

The Conservative Party of New York State launched an online petition to get the attention of Republicans in the state Senate. The group fears there is a chance the Republican majority in the state Senate won’t stop the proposal. To make sure lawmakers do, the group believes state residents must be opposed as well.

Nationwide, the union-backed group Fight for $15 has led much of the effort. It has utilized media marketing campaigns and rallies. It is highly influenced and funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the SEIU Local 1199 has launched a television spot in July supporting the statewide increase.

Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have gone higher. Seattle went furthest first, passing the $15 minimum wage back in June 2014. San Francisco and Los Angeles followed not long after. Each local ordinance phased in the new wage over the course of several years. Thus far, no state has passed a $15 minimum wage.

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