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Raising minimum wage will shape New York's economic future

STUART APPELBAUM President of RWDSU | 2/7/2013, 3:01 p.m.
At Hi-Tek Car Wash, sending a message of change to low-wage workers

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed 2013-14 state budget includes a bill that would substantially raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75. For too long, income inequality has been a drag on our economy. Increasing the state minimum wage is the first big step toward creating a new reality--one where low-wage workers in New York can afford the basic necessities of life and build better lives for themselves and their families.

Cuomo's commitment to raising the minimum wage is an important step for the growth of New York's economy, and we continue to be encouraged by his leadership on this issue. Over 1 million lives would be changed instantly by increasing the minimum wage $1.50 per hour. Furthermore, the added spending by these low-wage workers would provide an immediate boost to New York's economy and create tens of thousands of jobs.

In New York, the true purchasing power of the state minimum wage has dropped 48 percent since 1970. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be approximately $10.70 per hour today, instead of a woefully inadequate $7.25.

As the minimum wage increase moves forward, the state Legislature can ensure that it helps working people even more by including future increases so that an improved minimum wage maintains its strength. We still recognize there is a strong need for some means of predictability for employers and protection for working families, which is why working New Yorkers do not want to be here again in two years, asking for another increase.

The residents of this great state deserve and demand action that makes this state livable for all New Yorkers. A December Quinnipiac University poll showed that 80 percent of New Yorkers, including 61 percent of Republicans, support raising the minimum wage.

This groundswell of support for the minimum wage comes at a time when the jobs being added in New York are overwhelmingly low-wage. Corporations are doing well as the economy recovers, but their low-wage workforce continues to be left behind. New York is one of the most expensive states to live in, and the $15,000 annually that a minimum-wage earner brings home is outrageously low.

A stronger and greater support from the state government in the future for a wage-led recovery to this ongoing problem is something we will always stand for.