Biden applauds $15 an hour wage hike
Vice President Joe Biden applauded New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for approving plans to raise the minimum wage of fast-food employees to $15. (Sept. 10)
New York’s minimum wage is set to increase on Dec. 31, with three downstate counties arriving at the $15 minimum wage threshold set for the state five years ago.
Minimum wage workers in Westchester County and in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island will see $15 an hour in the new year, on par with workers employed by large firms in New York City, who have been making $15 an hour since the end of 2018.
Fast food workers across New York also make $15 an hour, regardless of location.
Workers in the rest of the state will see an increase to $13.20 an hour — a 70-cent increase from the current rate of $12.50 — on Dec. 31.
The increases are part of New York’s minimum wage package, passed in 2016 by the state Legislature and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo with a five-year rising scale of wages, staggered across the state based on location.
The increase comes in the midst of the state’s ongoing economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which stifled economic growth and snarled the job market.
More on NY’s minimum wage: Division of the Budget report says NY’s minimum wage should increase at year’s end
Rising wages amid a pandemic
Last year, some lawmakers and business groups decried the state’s decision to raise the minimum wage as scheduled, saying it would maim struggling businesses trying to come out of the worst of the pandemic.
At the time, the state argued that low-wage workers were some of the hardest hit in 2020, particularly in the hospitality and retail sectors, and therefore they should receive a bump in pay.
This year, in its annual review of the state economy to determine whether a wage increase is warranted, New York’s Division of the Budget again found that the low-wage sector was the most severely impacted by the pandemic.
The state said 1 million jobs, or 57% of the private sector losses, were impacted in the three industries where minimum wage workers are most concentrated: retail, health care and hospitality.
“It makes sense to raise the wage floor now and continue supporting New York’s families while providing a predictable path forward for businesses,” Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in a statement in September, following the publication of the Division of the Budget’s review. “With today’s action we are continuing the work of building back with equity and justice.”
Reardon noted that many employers were already paying above the minimum wage due to the high demand for labor in New York and across the nation.
Nationally, President Joe Biden signed an executive order in April, requiring a $15 an hour minimum wage for federal contractors starting on Jan. 30, 2022.
Includes reporting from USA TODAY Network Government and Politics Editor Joe Spector.
Sarah Taddeo is an enterprise reporter for USA Today Network’s New York State Team. Got a story tip or comment? Contact Sarah at STADDEO@Gannett.com or (585) 258-2774. Follow her on Twitter @Sjtaddeo. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Please consider becoming a digital subscriber.
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