Editor, The Spotlight:
A hike in the state minimum wage is long overdue.
We need to turn the minimum wage from a poverty wage into a living wage – at least $10 an hour.
The Assembly has proposed an initial step of $8.50 an hour, up from $7.25, with an index to inflation. Senate Republicans oppose. Gov. Cuomo has been silent but is thought to support some hike.
A minimum wage raise would be a good first step in addressing the tremendous income disparity in New York that has developed over the last 30 years. The wealth gap in New York is the greatest in the country – and the U.S. has the greatest gap among the industrial democracies.
Average wages are 7 percent lower today, adjusted for inflation, than they were in 1973. The last time we saw the richest 1 percent getting 35 percent of the income was in 1927 –right before the Great Depression.
The minimum wage was enacted during the Great Depression as a way to get the economy moving again by putting more money into he hands of the working poor. When the rich have so much money, tax cuts for the wealthy doesn’t create jobs or stimulate the economy because they have too much money to spend.
The number of people coming to food pantries and soup kitchens has increased 60 percent in the last four years. Many of the three million New Yorkers receiving emergency food have jobs but don’t make enough to make ends meet.
A recent survey found that 67 percent of Americans favor hiking the minimum wage to $10. Even a majority of Republicans favor the higher minimum wage.
Raising the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 would benefit about 1 million New York workers. Adults account for more than 84 percent of workers who would benefit.
The minimum wage was not one of several key non-budget items that were done as part of the recent state budget deal. Let’s hope lawmakers agree to a pay hike for the working poor right after they get back from their vacation.
Mark A. Dunlea
Executive director, Hunger Action of NYS