Pay up, LI employers: Minimum wage is rising again

Cash in: With a $15 ante just two years away, Long Island's minimum hourly wage is rising again.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Going up? You bet – minimum wages on Long Island and around New York State are set to rise again.

As part of a Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s phased-in master plan, which ultimately targets a statewide $15 minimum wage, Westchester-, Nassau- and Suffolk-based employers are required to pay a $13 hourly minimum as of Dec. 31, with the $15 minimum scheduled to arrive in 2021.

In New York City, where the minimum wage is already $15 per hour for companies employing 11 or more people, the max mini extends to companies employing 10 or fewer as of Dec. 31, while the hourly minimum across the rest of the state grows to $11.80.

Opinions vary on how different business sectors are dealing with Albany’s wonderwheel of sliding wage increases, which started spinning as part of the 2016/17 state budget. Certain industry leaders (in food services particularly) tend to hate it, while a 2019 study by the federal Congressional Budget Office found that raising the national minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 would lift some families above the poverty line – and force other low-wage workers out of their jobs, with obvious socioeconomic consequences.

Andrew Cuomo: Wage of reason.

Countering the negative reactions and gloomy predictions is a new report by the NYS Division of the Budget that finds record-low unemployment rates across the Empire State – an indication that the geography-tempered minimum-wage increases “have been absorbed with negligible, if any, impacts on labor demand,” according to the governor’s office.

Key findings of the report include a record-low statewide unemployment rate projected for 2019, solid annual growth in private-sector jobs and a steady aging of the minimum-wage workforce, with the percentage of workers ages 16 to 24 estimated to drop more than 10 percent between 2009 and 2020.

Perhaps most importantly, the Division of the Budget calculates a rising percentage of minimum-wage workers across the state, with the lower rung expected to comprise 16.4 percent of the entire New York workforce in 2020.

With so many New Yorkers counting on minimum wages, and bolstered by those solid unemployment and job-creation statistics, the scheduled phase-in will continue on Dec. 31 and beyond, according to Cuomo, who believes New York is “setting a national example” in the “fight for economic justice.”

“Nearly three years after we set New York on a path to achieve a $15 minimum wage, we are seeing the benefits: record-low unemployment rates, fewer people living in poverty, less people working multiple part-time jobs and more families given the opportunity to live a decent life,” the governor said Thursday. “We won’t stop fighting until every hardworking New Yorker is paid the fair wages they deserve.”