The minimum wage in New York increased last week, and that is a good thing for people trying to make ends meet by tying together small paychecks. But the federal government needs to act to raise the minimum across the nation.
The state’s minimum wage went to $8 an hour, 75 cents above the federal minimum and the previous state rate.
This is the first of three incremental increases set in motion by the Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo when they approved the state budget in March. The rate will increase to $8.75 an hour at the end of this year, and to $9 an hour the year after.
This page has long held that the state raising the minimum wage on its own would merely add to its anti-business reputation. There have been a number of studies by business groups showing adverse business consequences in taking this step. Why would a company locate in a state where the minimum wage was higher than the next state over?
Conversely, there have been studies showing just the opposite and contending that there is no measurable negative effect when one state has a higher minimum wage. At least 13 states have started off the New Year with higher wage floors. But the issue can cause a firestorm.
The small city of SeaTac, Wash., is experiencing turmoil a month after voters decided, following a narrow referendum win, to raise the rate to $15 an hour. Opponents unleashed lawyers just before the Jan. 1 start date and managed to exempt workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is within the city limits.
Washington has the highest state minimum wage, which increases with inflation and will be $9.32 an hour this year. That might be surpassed by California, which recently approved a $10 minimum to be phased in over two years.
It all makes New York’s minimum look cheap by comparison, although a push is expected this year in Albany for state authorization for New York City and other high-cost areas to raise their minimum wages above the state level.
Meanwhile, President Obama is pushing for an increase on the federal level. Whether for obvious political advantage ahead of the 2014 midterm elections and a way to get everyone’s minds off Obamacare, the federal minimum wage should be increased.
Conservatives and business organizations won’t like it, but the time has arrived for workers across the nation to get a raise. The federal minimum wage was last increased in 2009, and even with that raise workers continue to fall behind inflation. If adjusted for inflation, the minimum adopted in 1968 would be $10.50 in today’s dollars.
There is little question that it would be hard to survive on even that amount. States shouldn’t be left to go it alone when it comes to helping the lowest-paid workers.