Is It Time to Beef Up New York’s Paltry Minimum Wage?

New York is one of the most expensive places to live in the nation. Yet, the state's minimum wage has been stagnant at $7.25 an hour since 2009.

Some state lawmakers are saying the time to increase the minimum wage is upon us. Across the state, stakeholders ranging from New York City wage and hour claim lawyers to small business owners to the more than half a million New Yorkers working in the lowest-paid jobs are eagerly awaiting the outcome of pending legislation.

Bill Would Raise Workers' Pay By More Than A Dollar an Hour

All told, nineteen states have increased their minimum wages above the floor level required by federal law. New York is not one of them.

New York's minimum wage mirrors the federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour, or approximately $15,000 a year for a full time worker. In a state where the cost of living continues to climb, many are worried that $7.25 an hour is not enough to live on, let alone to raise a family and save for the future.

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has introduced a bill that would immediately raise New York's Minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, with inflation-based adjustments made every year. The bill has garnered support from a wide base that includes Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

However, a minimum wage increase is not without its critics. Some business owners fear that a minimum wage increase would force them to eliminate some jobs completely. Others worry that a higher minimum wage would make it even more difficult for young New Yorkers to find jobs that would help introduce them to the world of work. And, even among workers earning minimum wage, an increase does not come free of concerns: it could mean a reduction in overtime opportunities, and in turn, overall paycheck totals.

While there are clearly issues that should be addressed in tandem with a minimum wage increase, more New Yorkers are coming around to the plight of the state's lowest paid workers. Considering the slow moving pace of the federal government, it may be up to state lawmakers to be the standard-bearers of a more progressively minimum wage policy.

Address Your Wage Concerns

A bump in the minimum wage could be a boon, but low-earning workers are still especially vulnerable to wage abuses. All workers - even undocumented immigrants - are protected by New York labor laws. Underpayment to workers is the same as stealing; if you believe you may have been underpaid by your employer, speak to an attorney today to find out how to recoup the wages you are owed.