Business Leaders Back New York Minimum Wage Increase

Costco, Greater NY Chamber of Commerce, Eileen Fisher and Hundreds of Small Business Owners Sign Joint Statement Delivered to Lawmakers Today

For Immediate Release: March 5, 2013
Contact: Mandela Jones, mandela@berlinrosen.com, O (646) 200-5316, C (914) 610-0942
Bob Keener, bobkeener@businessforsharedprosperity.org, C (617) 610-6766

New York – Business leaders across New York State applauded the Assembly for passing a bill today that would raise the minimum wage to $9 and adjust it annually for the cost of living, and urged the Senate to follow suit. Costco, the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, EILEEN FISHER, ABC Home, Buffalo First, BALCONY, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Hudson Valley ReThink Local and nearly 400 business owners and organizations across New York said in a joint statement delivered to Gov. Cuomo and state lawmakers today that raising the minimum wage will benefit businesses and the state economy.

“At Costco, we know that paying employees good wages makes good sense for business,” said Craig Jelinek, Costco’s President and CEO. “We pay a starting hourly wage of $11.50 in all states where we do business, and we are still able to keep our overhead costs low. An important reason for the success of Costco’s business model is the attraction and retention of great employees. Instead of minimizing wages, we know it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty. We support efforts to increase the minimum wage in New York.”

Greater New York Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Jaffe said, “We surveyed our members and the majority indicated support for raising the minimum wage. No wonder – it makes perfect business sense. People with low incomes tend to spend their additional pay buying needed goods and services. Therefore, a minimum wage increase will boost the economy and help businesses grow. Raising the minimum wage to $9 and indexing it to inflation is the right thing to do so that workers can keep pace with New York’s high cost of living.

Melanie Beam, President of Capital District Local First, an independent business alliance in Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Saratoga Counties, said, “It hurts our economy when big chain stores pay workers so little they have to work two jobs or rely on public assistance to scrape by. Full-time workers should be able to afford the basic necessities businesses are eager to sell, and no business owner who pays a living wage should be undercut by competitors who do not. A higher minimum wage would level the playing field for small businesses in New York and keep more dollars circulating in our local economy and our tax base.”

Wages are a basic cost of business and like energy, transportation and other expenses, costs change over time,” said Amy Chender, Chief Operating Officer of retailer ABC Home. “The minimum wage must increase to reflect the rising cost of living. ABC Home pays well above the current minimum wage and we are ardently committed to supporting a minimum wage raise. No business is an island. When New York does better we do better. A minimum wage increase will improve our state economy, and is long overdue.”

“Many small business owners support a higher minimum wage, recognizing that more income flowing through our economy can also benefit us as our customers have more income,” said Jonathon Welch, Co-Founder of Talking Leaves Books, Buffalo’s oldest independent bookstore. “Relating the minimum wage to the consumer price index is a critical part of legislation raising the minimum wage because it allows me to plan into the future for reasonable increases.”

In the joint statement, the business leaders said, “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. A higher minimum wage makes good business sense. It puts money in the hands of New Yorkers who will put it right back into local businesses, buying needed goods and services. And nothing drives business job creation more than consumer demand. Increasing minimum wage also reduces the strain on our social safety net caused by inadequate wages.”

The joint statement refutes claims that a minimum wage increase will cost jobs, pointing out, “The most rigorous studies of the impact of actual minimum wage increases show they do not cause job loss – whether during periods of economic growth or during recessions.”

“Raising the minimum wage will provide concrete benefits from Long Island to upstate, said Jon Cooper, President of Spectronics Corporation in Westbury, a manufacturer with more than 150 employees. “Increasing the purchasing power of low-paid workers will pump millions of dollars into our state’s economy. This will provide a much-needed stimulus to small businesses, many of which continue to struggle during the slow recovery.”

 “The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) and its member organizations represent more than 165,000 businesses and more than 300,000 entrepreneurs and other business professionals in New York and across the country,” said New York City-based ASBC CEO David Levine. “In independent polling released by ASBC and other business organizations, the top concern of small business owners was the lack of consumer spending. Raising the minimum wage would lift the floor under wages, which in turn lifts consumer demand and strengthens our economy for sustainable job creation.”

Robin Soto, owner of Redmoon Caregivers, a home health care agency in Ithaca, said, “From the inception of our business in 2002, we have remained committed to paying all of our employees a fair wage because it is the right thing to do. Not one of our dozens of employees has ever been paid less than $10.50 an hour. New York’s current $7.25 minimum wage is shameful.

The business sign-on statement began after Gov. Cuomo proposed a minimum wage increase to $8.75 in the State of the State address and continued after legislative proposals increased to $9 following the President’s State of the Union. It calls for increasing the minimum wage to at least $8.75, and then indexing it to inflation as 10 other states have done, or locking in additional step increases in future years. The statement points out that if the state's minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1970, the minimum wage would be $10.70 now, not $7.25.

Visit Business For a Fair Minimum Wage for the current list of signers and the full statement.

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Business for a Fair Minimum Wage is a network of business owners and executives who believe a fair minimum wage makes good business sense.

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