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Minimum wage increase makes good business sense

When Governor Cuomo called for raising New York’s minimum wage, he expressed not only his own view, but also the convictions of 80 percent of New Yorkers who agree that the state’s lowest-paid workers are in urgent need of a raise. As a business owner, I support the effort to raise the minimum wage because it makes good business sense.

Raising New York’s minimum wage is a critical priority for accelerating the state’s economic recovery. When low-paid workers struggle to purchase necessities on inadequate wages as the cost of living rises, it undermines our economy. As said in a Business for a Fair Minimum Wage statement I signed along with business owners throughout our state, “With far less buying power than it had four decades ago, today’s minimum wage means poverty for working families and weakens the consumer demand at the heart of our economy.”

Raising the minimum wage will put more money in the pockets of workers who most need to spend those dollars. It will boost consumer spending at local businesses across the state. And nothing drives business owners like me to hire additional workers more than increased consumer demand.

Higher wages also benefit businesses by boosting employee productivity, retention and customer satisfaction, and reducing the high costs of employee turnover. Moreover, increasing the minimum wage will reduce the strain on our social safety net caused by inadequate wages.

The Governor proposes raising the state’s minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 per hour, which is just $15,080 a year for full-time work, to $8.75 per hour. This minimum wage increase would benefit nearly 1.6 million low-paid workers across the state, according to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute. The increased wages received by these workers would generate more than $840 million in new economic activity.

Minimum wage workers in retail, restaurants, hospitality, the service industries and other support staff are long overdue for a raise that reflects current living standards. Rent, food, transportation and other keys of life can’t wait for more time to go by.

New York lags behind 19 states – including neighboring Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont – that have raised their minimum wages above $7.25. It’s time to act. The minimum wage should be increased to $8.75, and then indexed to inflation so its value does not shrink in the future as the cost of living rises.

As a business owner who was once a low-income wage earner myself, I support raising the minimum wage to give all New Yorkers a jump start to living a more hopeful, productive, prosperous life. Let’s make New York a true shining beacon of opportunity for all workers and businesses.

Raising the minimum wage will be good for New York’s workers, good for New York’s businesses, and good for New York’s economy. Legislative leaders such as Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senator Jeffrey Klein have named it a top priority for the 2013 Session. The time for a minimum wage mandate is now.

Let’s get it done.

Darius Ross is managing partner of D Alexander Ross Real Estate Capital Partners, in New York City. He is a member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage. www.businessforafairminimumwage.org

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American Forum. 1/13

Updated 6:16 pm, February 11, 2013:
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