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NY small business OK with locally set minimum wages

April 21, 2014
A poll released by a small business advocacy group found that 66 percent of small business owners in New York state are in favor of a legislative plan that would allow minimum wage to be set by cities and counties throughout the state.

The bill known as #RaiseUpNY (S.6516/A.9036) would allow individual cities and counties across the state to set their own minimum wage based on cost of living and other factors.

The Small Business Majority hired Greenberg Quinlan Rosener Research to conduct a poll of New York small business owners in mid February that found 77 percent of small business owners in the state support setting the minimum wage above the current rate of $8 and indexing the minimum wage to rise with the cost of living.

"Small businesses know that decent wages are a smart investment and that poverty-level wages at major companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald's unfairly drain local communities and businesses of the spending power needed to sustain economic growth," said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project (NELP). "With wide variations in the cost of living throughout New York State, it only makes sense for Albany to empower cities and counties to set higher minimum wages that reflect local economic conditions."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized plans for a locally-set minimum wage, saying it would create a chaotic situation in New York by pitting communities against each other.

According to a report by the National Employment Law Project and the Fiscal Policy Institute, three million workers in New York earn less than $15 an hour; 49 percent being Hispanic and 48 percent being black.

Of the business owners polled, 84 percent pay their employees above the minimum wage; 67 percent had only 2 to 5 employees, 16 percent had 6 to 10 employees, 7 percent had 11 to 25 employees, and 10 percent had 26 to 100 employees.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner reported that its respondents were 45 percent Republican, 40 percent Democrat and 15 percent independent or other.

Earlier this month, 130 of the state's most powerful women urged the passage of the bill in a letter to Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature noting that 53 percent of low wage workers in New York are women.

Their letter asked the governor to follow Connecticut and Maryland, which recently raised their minimum wages to $10.10 over the next three years.

The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25.

#RaiseUpNY is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, and Assemblyman Karim Camara, D- Brooklyn.

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