Westchester County — The minimum wage in New York increased once again on New Year’s Eve, a change that is welcomed by low-wage workers, but feared by small-business owners and those in the tip-service industry. New York State’s push toward a $15 minimum wage takes a planned step forward on New Year’s Eve Day when a bill signed earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo takes effect.
While deadlines for the full pay increase vary by county and company size, the law requires all businesses in New York to increase their minimum wage from $8.75 per hour beginning on Saturday.
In Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties, the minimum wage has now increased to $10 per hour. The pay rate in the three counties will then increase by $1 annually until the $15 per hour minimum wage mark is met at the end of 2021, according to Cuomo.
“These policies will not only lift up the current generation of low-wage workers and their families, but ensure fairness for future generations and enable them to climb the ladder of opportunity,” Cuomo said in a statement April 4 when the bill was ceremoniously signed into law.
For workers in Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess and the rest of the state, the minimum wage increases to $9.70, then another .70 each year after until reaching $12.50 on Dec. 31, 2020 – after which will continue to increase to $15 on an indexed schedule to be set by the Director of the Division of Budget in consultation with the Department of Labor.
The rate at which New York City businesses will increase their wages depends on company size.
Those companies with 11 employees or more will increase minimum salaries to $11 per hour at the end of this year and then provide an annual $2 increase until reaching $15 per hour at the end of 2018, according to Cuomo.
New York City businesses employing 10 of fewer people are set to increase their minimum wage to $10.50 per hour at the end of this year and then provide an annual increase of $1.50 until reaching $15 per hour at the end of 2019, according to Cuomo.
Companies across the remainder of the state will increase their minimum wages to $9.70 per hour at the end of this year and then provide a $0.70 pay increase each year until reaching $12.50 on New Year’s Eve in 2020, according to Cuomo.
According to the governor, those businesses will then provide their workers with minimum wage increases on an indexed schedule to be set by the state’s Division of Budget in consultation with the state’s Department of Labor.
When the schedule is concluded, the $15 minimum wage increase will have been enacted statewide across all industries, according to Cuomo, who said the move is expected to increase earnings for 2.3 million people.
While signing the bill to increase the state’s minimum wage, Cuomo also signed into a law a plan that will require businesses to provide 12 weeks of paid family leave to anyone caring for an infant or a family member with a serious health condition.
That program, which also provides 12 weeks of paid leave to anyone relieving pressures created when a family member is called to active military duty, will begin a three-year phase-in starting in 2018, according to the governor’s office.
Business owners continue to oppose the higher wages.
Last spring, the Business Council of Westchester released a poll to its members and found that twice as many of the business owners surveyed were against raising the minimum wage compared with those who supported it.
The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce found similar results after surveying over 200 of their members last year. The chamber found that roughly 70 percent of members opposed the wage increase, according to Christopher Wiest, vice president of the chamber.
“When you pass wide, sweeping legislation like minimum wage, you sometimes forget about what the cause and effects are going to be on a daily basis for people who are now going to have to live under this new law — and that’s what we’re going to have to wait and see,” said John Ravitz, the executive vice president of the Westchester council.
After the Dec. 31 raise, the Westchester County and Long Island wage will grow $1 an hour each year before hitting $15 at the end of 2021, while it will rise 70 cents each year until Dec. 31, 2020, for the rest of the state, except New York City.
In New York City the increases will be 21 an hour until the end of 2018. It will grow $1.50 a year for the city’s small businesses until reaching $15 a year later.
Frank Castella, Jr., the CEO of Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, knocked the plan.
“These increases will also make us less competitive across state lines, as forced inflation is inevitable. Our businesses will no longer be able to compete on price, and sales will be lost to neighboring states,” Castella said.