Senator John Flanagan says he supports working men and women but does not support Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed statewide minimum wage increase to $15 an hour.
Speaking at a Crain’s New York Business conference September 30, Flanagan, who has an economics degree, acknowledged that the current minimum wage was not enough to support a family in New York State but argued that New York’s minimum wage was already one of the ten highest in the country.
Flanagan also expressed opposition to Governor Cuomo’s wage board, which approved the minimum wage increase for fast-food workers, calling it “executive overreach.”
“I believe in working men and women and I want people to have the opportunity to get a good job and make good money,” said Flanagan while speaking at the conference, “but I also believe in capitalism. I believe in the market.” Flanagan noted that since 2004, the minimum wage has increased by 75% while inflation has only increased 27.6%.
However, according to Pew Research, the federal minimum wage has not reached its 1968 peak. When adjusted for inflation, the 1968 minimum wage was $8.54 in 2014 dollars. The current minimum wage in New York City is only slightly higher at $8.75, despite the fact that New York City is one of the most expensive places to live nationwide.
“I think Senator Flanagan in no way can claim that he supports working men and women,” says Jonathan Westin, executive director of NY Communities for Change, a coalition of working families advocating for economic and social justice.
Westin hopes New York will follow the example of cities like Seattle and San Francisco, which have already adopted higher minimum wages. “What we find in a lot of these cases is that raising the minimum wage actually produces a better business climate because workers have more money in their pockets, they have more money to spend, and the overall economies do better.”
Michael Carey, an airport security employee at John F. Kennedy International Airport agrees. Carey currently earns only $10.10 an hour and says that a $15 hourly minimum wage would change his life dramatically. “It would benefit both sides, business-wise and personal-wise,” said Carey, who stated a larger disposable income would allow him the opportunity to spend more money at local businesses.
Flanagan and other opponents of a $15 minimum wage have argued that the increase would hurt small business owners who may be forced to close shop or lay off some employees to compensate for the higher labor costs.
Mike Itzkovitz, a Subway franchise owner in San Francisco, which raised its minimum wage to $12.25 an hour earlier this year, says he hasn’t laid off employees but has had to cut their hours. “It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure it out,” said Itkovitz. “If you’re raising the minimum wage by a dollar and you average 250 hours, that’s an extra thousand dollars in costs.”
In addition to cutting hours, Itzkovitz said he has also compensated for the minimum wage hike by increasing prices, a measure that has impacted customer perception and sales. When asked if the minimum wage increase has had its intended effect for minimum-wage employees, Itzkovitz acknowledged the cost of living in the Bay area is high. “Has it helped? A little bit,” said Itzkovitz.