(NEW YORK CITY) – Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is making a push for the minimum wage to be changed to $22 an hour. Meanwhile, Albany is busy hammering out a 24% pay increase — raising the New York minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 over three years — a far cry from the proposal that Warren backed in a recent interview.
“If we started in 1960, and we said [that] as productivity goes up, that is as workers are producing more — then the minimum wage was going to go up the same. And if that were the case, then the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour,” said Warren, speaking to a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor, Dr. Arindrajit Dube. “So my question is Mr. Dube, with a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, what happened to the other $14.75? It sure didn’t go to the worker.”
So the question remains for the 1.5 million New Yorkers who are on the brink of getting a pay hike next January — $1.75 rise in minimum wage, capped at $9 by 2016 — do they consider that a lifestyle improvement?
“If it does go up, it should go up to $10, $12 dollars, because today it’s not working the right way,” said one resident of East Harlem who did not want to provide his name but says that he works as a DJ.
After a hard fight, lawmakers in Albany came to a tentative agreement on the new legislation that will take the Empire State from 20th in the nation, to 3rd for its minimum-wage rate. “The job of government is to provide whatever help we can. This is a balance point. I think that amount of increase will make a difference in people’s lives,” said New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
Nearly 400 small business have signed on in support according to Michael Kink, the Executive Director of the Strong Economy for All Coalition. Marcus Lopez a small business owner in East Harlem said, “Beautiful, Beautiful,” moments after a PIX 11 News camera entered his Raices Dominicana Cigar Shop in East Harlem inquiring for his reaction.
Stephen Sunderland, Managing Director of Optimal Spaces, one of the city’s top commercial real estate firms, says the raise will only force businesses to pass the cost onto consumers, “Businesses have to operate in a profit margin, so when the cost of labor goes up they’ll either have to increase their prices or close.”
All this as the city is already mired in a poverty rate that is approximately 20% according to de Blasio. The question that many are asking, what does $9 an hour get you? When the calculations are done roughly $17,280 before taxes.
For workers trying to get by check to check like Olga in East Harlem, it is simply not enough, “I think it’s a crack of bull. Why does it have to be $9 minimum wage?”
Cesar Torres who was a few feet away added, “It’s not a help but a beginning of something, you know what I’m saying? I believe minimum wage should be $12 dollars, $15 an hour.”