News on the minimum wage just keeps coming this week, and today’s update is from New York. Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo released his budget for 2013-14, which proposes raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 per hour and raising the minimum cash wage for tipped food service workers from $5.00 to $6.03 per hour, effective July 1, 2013. And now a new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) and the National Employment Law Project (NELP) shows that the majority of New York workers who would get a raise under Governor Cuomo’s proposal are women — 845,700 women to be exact.
Today, minimum wage workers in New York earn just $14,500 per year — more than $3,600 below the poverty line for a mom with two kids, and far less than a family needs to be economically secure in a state with a notoriously high cost of living. If Governor Cuomo’s proposal becomes law, women earning the minimum wage would see their annual pay rise by $3,000. Tipped food service workers like restaurant servers — who are about 70 percent women nationwide — could get an extra $2,060 per year.
That income boost could make a real difference for New York families struggling to make ends meet, and higher pay for hundreds of thousands of New York women could help close the persistent gap between women’s and men’s earnings in the state. However, annual wages of $17,500 would still leave a family of three about $600 below the poverty line. Moreover, because Governor Cuomo’s proposal does not index the minimum wage or the tipped minimum wage to inflation, the wages’ value would begin to erode almost immediately relative to the cost of living. The lack of any link to inflation is one reason the minimum wage is so low today; if New York’s minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since it reached its peak purchasing power in 1970, it would now be $11.15 per hour.
Still, Governor Cuomo’s proposal would be a major step in the right direction for New York workers and their families. NELP and FPI found that raising the state minimum wage to $8.75 per hour would mean bigger paychecks for more than 1.5 million total workers — and those extra dollars flowing into New York’s economy would help create about 7,300 new jobs. To ensure that the benefits of a minimum wage increase are sustained over time, however, lawmakers should consider ways to strengthen Governor Cuomo’s proposal, including an inflation adjustment provision.