(WBNG Binghamton) Calling it a matter of dignity and crucial to the ability of working men and women to climb the economic ladder, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assembly Labor Committee Chairman Keith Wright on Monday introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage in New York to $8.50 an hour and index it to inflation to ensure wages don't erode in the future.
"Last year we began the process to instill fairness in New York's tax code, and now we are addressing the inequities at the lower end of the pay scale," Silver said in a news release. "It is absurd to expect anyone to afford the cost of living today and be able to invest in their future on a pay rate of $7.25 an hour. That is why it is my top priority this legislative session to repair the ladder to success, to make an investment in our working families and ensure that they can continue to do so as the cost of living continues to rise."
The legislation (A.9148) calls for the minimum wage to increase to $8.50 in January of 2013. The minimum wage will be indexed, requiring an increase each year to adjust for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Indexing will begin January of 2014.
The legislation will also set wages for food service workers who receive tips at $5.86. This wage will also be indexed annually to adjust for inflation.
"Raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is a matter of economic fairness, and our plan progressively rewards hardworking men and women who are trying to make ends meet," Wright said in the news release. "According to the US Census, nearly half of all Americans have fallen into poverty or joined the ranks of the working poor. This is not the American Dream. New Yorker's who work full time, shouldn't be poor. It's as simple as that!"
The minimum wage in New York has increased only ten cents in the last six years. It was raised with the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour in 2009. Prior to that, the minimum wage was $7.15, which was set in 2007.
The District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and 15 other states have higher minimum wage rates than New York State.
Ten other states have passed legislation indexing the minimum wage to ensure the minimum wage will not erode each year as the cost of living rises
“I want to thank Speaker Silver, Assemblyman Wright, and their colleagues for their leadership on this critical issue,” said Mario Cilento, president of the NYS AFL-CIO. “Increasing the state minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is smart policy. It will benefit both workers and our state economy, as this money will be spent right back in our local communities. This bill will ensure that never again is the buying power of the minimum wage ravaged by inflation. Workers and their employers will have modest and predictable annual increases to plan for. With this bill, we have the opportunity to make a real positive change in people’s lives.”
"A broad coalition of labor unions, community organizations, and the Working Families Party is supporting the Assembly to raise the minimum wage this year. This legislation is a small but important step that will help forge a path out of poverty toward the middle class," said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) of this effort. "New Yorkers need a wage-led recovery from the recession. It's time to transform economic vulnerability into economic security. This legislation tells low-wage New Yorkers that they are not invisible or forgotten, and that government can improve their lives."