Rochester City: Just getting by on New York's minimum wage

By Jeremy Moule
Rochester City Newspaper, May 30, 2012

Say you’re working 40 hours a week for minimum wage, which in New York is $7.25 an hour. Before taxes, your Social Security contribution, and other deductions, you’re making about $290 a week. That’s $15,080 a year.

Now, consider this: the federal poverty level for a single person is $11,070. For one adult with one child, the level is $15,130. So if you’re making minimum wage, you are at or near the poverty threshold. And critics say that those standards underestimate, often substantially, what it takes for people to be truly self-sufficient and to support themselves and their families.

Across New York — especially in the capital — lawmakers, activists, and even some businesses are pushing for an increase in the minimum wage.

Supporters of a minimum wage increase say the objections are misguided.

Most of the state’s minimum wage jobs are in the retail, sales and service, and food service industries. Increasing the minimum wage wouldn’t cost those workers their jobs since the industries “serve neighborhood consumer markets not subject to cross-state competition,” says the Fiscal Policy Institute’s report.

Some of those businesses should actually benefit if their workers are paid more, supporters say. Minimum wage earners are likely to spend pay increases on things like food and necessities, they say.

Some businesses do support an increase in the minimum wage. Mega-retailer Costco signed onto a statement of support for the $8.50 minimum wage with inflation indexing. The statement was put together by Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, which is a sub-campaign of Business for Shared Prosperity.

But beyond economic questions, many supporters of an increase advance a simpler justification. It often gets called the moral imperative, and religious leaders, lawmakers, and activists all stress it. ...

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