State, Federal Chamber Leaders Support Wage Increase

State and federal chamber of commerce leaders are supporting an increase in New York’s minimum wage, and they’re not alone.

On Thursday, Business for a Fair Minimum Wage held a press conference call with business and chamber leaders who support the proposed hike. In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in his State of the State address a proposition to increase the low-income wage from $7.25 to $8.75. 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.

Margot Dorfman, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer, said a wage hike is overdue. She said more than 5,000 women-owned businesses in New York would benefit from the increase.

”Raising the minimum wage reinforces their business strategy,” she said about low-income people having more money to spend if the wage was higher. ”Consumer spending drives 70 percent of the economy.”

Dorfman said people making $7.25 an hour in a full-time job only make around $15,000 a year.

”That is way too low,” she said. ”Raising the minimum wage will boost the economy from the bottom up.”

Mark Jaffe, Greater New York Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer, echoed Dorfman’s sentiments. He said a majority of the members who responded to a survey in his chamber supported the raise.

”A majority responding to the survey felt that in our high-cost state, (raising the minimum wage) would not be a barrier to job creation, but be a stimulant to the economy,” he said. ”A majority of the workers being paid minimum wage … have a hard time paying bills in New York.”

Jaffe said because minimum wage workers can do nothing but pay their bills with their income, there is no money being spent in the economy.

”Jobs will be created because people are spending, which will boost the economy,” he said. ”Small businesses will benefit … it is the right thing to do.”

Others supporting the proposed increase include Amy Chender, ABC Carpet & Home chief operating officer; John Cooper, Spectronics Corporation president; Melanie Beam, Capital District Local First president; and Darius Ross, D Alexander Ross Real Estate Capital Partners managing partner.

Business for a Fair Minimum Wage has a sign-on letter supporting the governor’s proposal. The full petition can be read by going to businessforafairminimumwage.org.

”We support Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to raise New York’s inadequate minimum wage to benefit business, workers and our economy,” the letter states. ”With leaders in both houses of the legislature in favor of raising the wage, and the public strongly in support, now is the time for action to strengthen New York’s economy.”

Business for a Fair Minimum Wage officials said the state’s minimum wage lags behind 19 states. The group wants the minimum wage to be indexed to inflation each year, which 10 states have done. Officials said if the state’s minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1970, the low-income pay rate would be $10.70.

”Raising the minimum wage will not slow New York’s recovery,” officials state. ”The first federal minimum wage was enacted during the Great Depression to lift wages to alleviate poverty and increase the consumer purchasing power needed for job creation and economic recovery. Minimum wage increases play the same role today.”

Business for a Fair Minimum Wage is a project of Business for Shared Prosperity, which is a national network of forward-thinking business owners and executives, states the group’s website.