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Minimum wage should be indexed to inflation

I applaud the New York State Assembly for passing a minimum wage increase with indexing to inflation. It’s not just about increasing the minimum wage now – it’s about preserving the value of the wage over time. If New York’s minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since 1970, it would be over $10 today. If we do nothing, it will be worth only $5.22 by 2022.

The Buffalo Niagara region has been hit hard by the shift from well-paid manufacturing to low-paid service jobs. Roughly 125,000 people in our region work at jobs where the median annual income is less than $20,000 – jobs such as food preparation, retail sales, child care and home care. Indexing would preserve the purchasing power of these low-wage workers and eliminate the pressure on lawmakers to keep returning to this issue.

There are many myths surrounding the effects of a minimum wage increase. Some say that it would mostly benefit teenagers. In reality, 84 percent of those who would benefit from the increase are over age 20, and 83 percent are full-time workers. Others claim that it will kill jobs, but a study comparing fast-food restaurant jobs in New Jersey, which raised its minimum wage, and Pennsylvania, which did not, found that employment increased in the New Jersey restaurants.

Raising the minimum wage with indexing to inflation is simple common sense. Though New York State has one of the highest costs of living, 19 states have minimum wages higher than ours. Ten have indexed it to inflation. It’s time for New York State to do the same.

Jackie MacKellar

East Amherst