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By Aaron Bartley
Buffalo News, March 18, 2023

As a small business owner, I know that we need people who work for a living to be able to make a living. Unfortunately, the minimum wage has fallen woefully behind the cost of living. That’s bad for businesses and for working people.

As lawmakers consider the Raise the Wage Act to catch up New York’s minimum wage to the actual cost of living, I encourage them to remember our economy is driven by consumer spending. When workers earn more, our customers have more spending money, and local businesses like mine do better. Minimum wage increases go back into communities and the economy.

I opened my business, FITZ Books & Waffles, about three years ago, as the pandemic hit. We’ve grown despite the hardships during this period. We’ve sold new and used books since we opened, added the sale of waffles, and have grown further since, offering more food and beverages, including local ice cream.

My employees are critical to the success of my business. They provide great customer service and quality work. They make our business a place where people want to be.

Our employee turnover is low, so we save money and time by not regularly needing to hire and train new people. And our employees get to know our customers.

It’s not enough for individual business owners to raise their own starting pay. Our economy doesn’t work well when the minimum wage keeps people in poverty. Many people work full time and still live right on the edge financially.

I know that if people had more money in their pockets, they’d spend some of that on books and enjoying our café. It’s time to raise the minimum wage so it catches up to the cost of living and index it in future years so it doesn’t fall behind again.

As proposed in the Raise the Wage Act, New York’s minimum wage would increase in annual increments to $20 in Western New York and upstate by 2026 while increasing to $21.25 downstate. In 2027, the minimum wage statewide would be $21.25 plus annual indexing so that it does not lose purchasing power in the future.

Minimum wage increases won’t happen overnight. They will phase in over multiple years, so businesses can plan. And businesses will benefit from increased consumer spending and savings from lower employee turnover.

More than three dozen Buffalo-area businesses have signed the New York Business for a Fair Minimum Wage statement in support of raising the minimum wage as called for in the Raise the Wage Act – as have hundreds more businesses and business groups statewide such as the Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce.

Raising the minimum wage is a critical investment in the long-term vitality of Buffalo and New York.

Aaron Bartley is the owner of FITZ Books and Waffles in Buffalo. He is a member of New York Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.

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Copyright 2023 Aaron Bartley