The New York State Secretary of State, Cesar Perales, was at TruForm Manufacturing Friday morning to make the case for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push for an increase in minimum wage.
Perales met with a small group of business owners for a roundtable discussion on the subject. He said there are a large number of people working fulltime, but who continue to live below the poverty level.
“The question becomes—we have a lot of folks earning the minimum wage—shouldn’t they earn enough so that they can feed themselves, or are we going to have to support them on public assistance?” Perales said to the mostly supportive group of businessmen attending the N. Clinton Ave. meeting.
The minimum wage in New York State is currently $8.75 per hour. Cuomo’s plan would increase it to $10.50 across the state, and to $11.50 in New York City.
The governor, who was in Rochester Thursday, however, rejected a plan by Assembly Democrats to raise the minimum wage even higher, to $15 and hour by the end of 2018.
Cuomo said the rate was too high. “God bless them—shoot for the stars,” he stated.
Perales met with business owners in Buffalo yesterday, and was headed to Syracuse after his Rochester visit to continue framing the issue to local businesses.
Tyrone Reaves, President of TruForm, said he is a proponent of raising the minimum wage, but has some concerns it may increase the unemployment rate of youth.
“While the great majority of our workers are skilled, and are paid well above the minimum wage, we hire a number of young people over the summer who do not have the necessary skills,” Reaves stated. “So, while I personally believe in the importance of the issue, others (business owners) may not look at it the same way, and may cut back on their hiring.”
Reaves, who employs about 160 people, said he feels there should be more dialogue around the matter. One suggestion was to create a tiered system, one for 14- to 18-year-olds, and another for adults.
Perales noted that, while some employers may say they will cut workers hours because of higher wages, he has not found that to be the case in practice. “Over the long run it’s a tremendous boost to the economy and will pull 100,000 people out of poverty.”
But not all legislators are in favor of the governor’s proposal. The New York State Republican-controlled Senate may pose some hurdles.
In addition, 18 business groups in New York released a statement Wednesday in opposition to the measure.
“Any attempt to increase the minimum wage before full implementation should be rejected,” the groups, including the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, the Rockland Business Association and the Rochester-based Unshackle Upstate, wrote. “We strongly urge Albany to continue the progress made in improving New York’s economic competitiveness while focusing on pro-growth initiatives as budget negotiations enter this final stretch.”
Rochester Business Alliance, headed by former Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, was not named on the list.
Ultimately, Perales said raising the minimum wage is an “imperative moral issue.”
“These are folks working full-time, and still living below the poverty level. This shouldn’t happen. It shouldn’t happen in Rochester. It shouldn’t happen anywhere in New York State,” Perales stated.