Small Businesses all across New York State have been outspoken in their opposition to Governor Cuomo’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Earlier this month business owners came to Albany for Small Business Day. In appointments with more than 50 members of the Senate and Assembly we made our case that the $15 minimum wage would overwhelm the small business community. We found legislators to be surprisingly receptive to our arguments and genuinely concerned about the plight of our businesses if the proposal is approved. But we also heard how determined the Governor is to achieve a $15 per hour minimum wage and how hard he might negotiate.
Our Minimum Wage Reality Check coalition has kept up the fight this month as well. The coalition held a press conference on Small Business Day which received coverage throughout the state. And as the Fight for $15 campaign travelled around New York in an RV holding rallies and press events, our coalition started an electronic letter writing – email campaign to balance out what legislators were hearing. Our coalition’s efforts have generated more than 150,000 messages in just the first week!
And our work is paying off. While the Assembly is strongly in support of a $15 minimum wage, the Senate Majority continues to resist it. The Senate has called for an economic analysis of the impact of a $15 minimum wage. While the Senate is not opposed to some increase in the minimum wage philosophically, they want to make sure that any increase in the minimum wage won’t thwart job growth especially at small businesses. And there are numerous Democratic Members of the Assembly who have expressed the same type of concern – just not enough to impact the Assembly Majority’s position. There’s been little public discussion of the cash wage for tipped workers, but we’ve been actively engaged in private discussions in hopes of avoiding the elimination of the tip credit or a significant increase. As talks about the $15 minimum wage proposals continue the tip wage will become part of the conversation.
We’re also making progress on the paid family leave issue. Legislators understand the unique impact this could have on small businesses and are discussing ways to make it easier for small businesses to comply. In looks likely the budget and these issues will be decided by the end of March. It’s more likely than not that the budget will include an increase in the minimum wage and some form of paid family leave. Our continued advocacy over the next few days will keep the pressure on and help us achieve the best outcome. Visit our website, www.esrta.org, to join the online campaign!