In his State of the State Address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) announced that he would raise New York’s minimum wage to $8.75, but local business and employee representatives are skeptical of the proposal.
Cuomo called today’s minimum wage standard of $7.25 an hour, “unlivable.” He said that New York's current hourly rate is below that of 19 other states. “It’s long overdue,” he said.
While it may be near impossible to live on Long Island with a minimum wage job, Albert Breud, who practices employment law in Commack, said that he is doubtful employees in many industries will actually see their wages go up, even if an increase is passed.
“I’m a skeptic because I see in my practice a lot of non-compliance right now with the current minimum wage standards,” Breud said.
He said that he’s seen a tendency of employers, particularly in the food service industry to be one the biggest culprits. “It could be because a lot of immigrants might be scared to stand up and initiate action,” he said.
Every month the attorney comes across cases involving wage and hour disputes, often finding that area restaurants and other businesses are not paying proper overtime, even at the state's current standards.
As Long Island businesses are in the process of recovering from both a recession and superstorm Sandy, the burden of additional employment costs is also an uncertainty for business owners.
"It will be interesting to see if it will create more hardship for employers and to see what they will actually pay, and what kind of retribution there will be if employers do not comply with new standards," Breud said.
For Kevin Law, president and CEO of the Long Island Association, the answer is clear: raising the minimum wage is bad for business.
Law, who is a Saint James resident and former member of the Board of Ethics for the Town of Smithtown, said in a letter to the governor that raising the minimum wage would burden business owners.
"It would diminish our state’s competitiveness, increase layoffs, and raise the cost of doing business for large and small companies," he said in the letter.
The Long Island Association, a leading business organization in the region, is opposed to both the proposed minimum wage hike, as well as the state's efforts to to have the wage adjusted each year for inflation.
"The free market should dictage wage hikes, not the government," Law said.
What do you think? Would you be able to live on $7.25 an hour? Can business owners afford a minimum wage increase? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.