Manufacturers Oppose Minimum Wage Increase

Raising the state’s minimum wage $1.50 isn’t the only way to help low-income workers.

On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed raising minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 in his State of the State speech. The Democratic governor says New Yorkers at the low end of the income ladder should earn more. The increase would be a 17 percent hike.

However, local manufacturing leaders said there are other ways. Even though the proposed increase wouldn’t affect the businesses The Post-Journal talked to – they start their employees at a greater pay rate than $8.75 – company officials said it isn’t the only course of action.

Jim Garde, Bush Industries chief executive officer, said the best way to help is to create more jobs.

”We’ve got to build a more economic-friendly environment to create new jobs,” he said. ”There is nothing better in raising wages than adding more jobs. The thing holding down wages more than anything else is there aren’t many jobs out there.”

Garde suggested to state lawmakers they should look to reform workers compensation and do away with useless regulations that only increase the cost of business.

”Look at those things and fix those and I think that will have more of an impact on wages than anything else (Gov. Cuomo) can do,” he said.

Herman Ruhlman, Rand Machine Products president, said instead of raising minimum wage, reduce the length of unemployment. He said instead of allowing skilled workers to be on unemployment for 99 weeks, get them motivated to work by dropping the length to 26.

”The problem is the government is paying more than what I can pay them,” he said. ”These people with skills don’t want to come to work, and I don’t blame them, but it is wrong. People won’t go to work until their unemployment runs out. We’ve had several people we wanted to hire, but they’re making more on unemployment than by coming to work for us.”

Ruhlman said he doesn’t know how to help low-income workers, but thinks it is a bad idea to raise minimum wage.

”I don’t know the solution. I know what they (government) are doing isn’t it,” he said.

Michael Calimeri, Artone Manufacturing president, said one way to help people making less revenue is to reduce taxes.

”Now the Social Security tax has jumped 2 percent. So the guy making $300 a week has to pay more for that,” he said. ”If we could give tax breaks to some of the individuals making minimum wage, that would be a greater help.”

Andy Johnson, TitanX human resources director, said reducing regulations and taxes will attract more businesses to move and stay in New York.

”It is common knowledge that this is not a business-friendly state,” he said. ”So if there were more jobs, than there is more competition which will drive wages up.’

Unshackle Upstate and the National Federation of Independent Business are both opposed to a minimum wage increase. Unshackle Upstate is a non-partisan, pro-taxpayer, pro-economic growth, education and advocacy coalition made up of business and trade organizations from all parts of Upstate New York. Unshackle Upstate officials said businesses across the state that are already struggling to compete and create jobs will be further impacted by a minimum wage increase. New York already has the worst business tax climates in the nation and increasing the minimum wage at this time would only make it more toxic.

The NFIB is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1943 and represents the consensus views of its members in Washington, D.C, and all 50 state capitals. Mike Durant, NFIB state director, said ”The NFIB remains staunchly opposed to any and all efforts to increase the minimum wage and we are disappointed that the governor used his address to make that a priority.”