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Op-Ed By Phil Andrews, President of the Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce
Newsday, March 23, 2023

At the Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce, we are committed to strengthening businesses, the workforce and our economy. Raising and then indexing New York’s minimum wage to keep up with the cost of living will do just that.

Prices have gone up, but the buying power of the minimum wage has shrunk, making it harder for people to make ends meet even if they work full-time jobs. I see people going into supermarkets, then going back out because they can’t afford things. We can’t sustain a viable economy this way.

Workers on Long Island and across our state are our customers. And to grow sales — the key to business expansion and hiring — we need customers with more money in their pockets to spend. It’s a virtuous cycle that will help our members and other businesses to thrive and grow.

Low wages, on the other hand, can be costly for employers. There is a strong connection between employee pay and employee retention. Low-wage businesses experience high turnover from workers leaving for jobs that pay more, which requires businesses to spend time and money recruiting and training new workers, who are less efficient, more likely to make errors, less in tune with the rest of the staff, and less experienced with customers. High turnover undermines service and product quality, hurting sales.

The Chamber has programs assisting small businesses and workforce development. We know that more experienced, better-trained employees deliver better quality and customer service and improve businesses.

We support the minimum wage increases proposed in the Raise the Wage Act. The minimum wage for Long Island, Westchester County and New York City, which has been losing buying power since reaching $15, would be increased annually until it reaches $21.25 in 2026. For perspective, consider this: According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a full- time worker with no children needs to make $21.46 per hour to meet basic expenses in New York State. In 2027 and future years, the minimum wage would be adjusted for inflation so it does not lose value.

While many businesses do pay more than minimum, that’s no substitute for raising the legal minimum wage. Some businesses get stuck in their ways with a low-wage model, which actually makes them less competitive.

The phase-in schedule will give businesses time to adjust as the wage floor resets to a more livable level. As the minimum wage increases, businesses will see greater revenues from increased consumer spending and cost savings from lower employee turnover, as well as benefit from better productivity and customer satisfaction.

The minimum wage proposal in the Raise the Wage Act has strong public support statewide, with 80% of New Yorkers supporting it in a recent poll by Data for Progress.

Critics of raising the minimum wage predict it will hurt employment. But in fact, researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the New York City Comptroller’s Office, and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that previous New York minimum wage increases raised pay without hurting employment.

We’ve joined with businesses across the state in the New York Business for a Fair Minimum Wage coalition because we know that small businesses thrive when the people who are our customers have more money to spend.

Raising and then indexing the minimum wage to the cost of living will help Long Island and the rest of our state build a more resilient, more dynamic economy.

This guest essay reflects the views of Phil Andrews, president of the Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce.

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Copyright 2023 Phil Andrews