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In one of the country’s most expensive cities, workers have to make the most of every minimum – and New York politicians are now planning to “wage” war for their cause.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Labor Committee Chair Keith Wright introduced legislation on January 30 to raise the minimum wage in New York from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour. The bill would also index the minimum wage to inflation to ensure it does not erode if prices rise in the future.

“Raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is a matter of economic fairness, and our plan progressively rewards hardworking men and women who are trying to make ends meet,” said Wright. “According to the U.S. Census, nearly half of all Americans have fallen into poverty or joined the ranks of the working poor. This is not the American Dream. New Yorkers who work full time shouldn’t be poor. It’s as simple as that.”

The increase would come into effect in January of 2013, and the minimum wage would be indexed beginning in January of 2014, requiring an increase each year to adjust for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The legislation would also increase pay for food service workers who receive tips to $5.86 an hour. This wage will also be indexed annually.
“No one who works full time should be poor and without hope,” said Assemblymember Francisco Moya. “We need to reward work and restore a sense of fairness. We need to raise the minimum wage. New York’s working families are seeing a decline in their purchasing power, and the question is no longer whether they can live on the minimum wage, it’s whether they can survive on the minimum wage.”

New York’s minimum wage has only increased by 10 cents over the past five years — rising along with the federal minimum to $7.25 an hour in 2009, before which it was $7.15. Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have higher minimum wage rates than New York. Ten states have also already passed legislation indexing the minimum wage.

The public appears divided regarding the increase, with some apprehensive about the potential effect on the employment rate.

“I don’t know how raising the minimum wage is going to affect jobs and job creation,” said Pete Gorynski, a paint manufacturer from Bayside. “In terms of minimum wage jobs I think of unskilled workers and high school and college kids. They are stepping stones. I think raising the minimum wage may make these jobs less available.”

Others believe a raise in minimum wage is belated, and the people require more financial boosts in these exigent economic times.
“I think it is good to raise minimum wage,” said Sid Curry, a resident of Bushwick. “America has suffered terrible wage depressions since the 1970s, so we are overdue for this kind of thing.”


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