The U.S. Senator calls for increase from the current $7.25 per hour to $9.80
By Stephen Witt
United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand came to Bed-Stuy this week calling for the federal minimum wage be hiked from $7.25 an hour to $9.80 over the next three years.
The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, co-sponsored by Gillibrand, would boost the incomes of an estimated 651,000 New York City workers, including about 195,000 Brooklyn residents, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.
“Working poor New Yorkers who go to work every day at minimum-wage jobs aren’t even keeping pace with the rate of inflation,” said Gillibrand at a press conference at the Tiny Cup coffee shop on Nostrand Avenue and Clifton Place.
“Not only does the current minimum wage often keep these working families below the poverty line, it keeps needed spending power out of our local economy,” she added.
Gillibrand argued that increasing the minimum wage is a win-win situation in that it will help working-poor families living week to week pay their basic bills and local Brooklyn businesses who will profit from additional consumer spending.”
Joining Gillibrand was Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, the presumptive candidate to succeed retiring Congressman Ed Towns in Washington, and Tiny Cup owner Dacha Perkins.
“Passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 will address the rising cost of basic necessities like food, gas, housing and grow our economy in a sustainable way that will also benefit local businesses,” said Jeffries, who vowed to make the raising of the federal minimum wage a priority once he gets to Washington.
Perkins said reining the minimum wage is good for business.
“It will boost morale among employees, which makes them work more efficiently and more reliably,” said Perkins, adding that some of her employees work two and three jobs just to keep above water.”
The move to increase the minimum wage comes as its current purchasing power is at a historic low, with the last increase in the federal minimum wage taking place in July 2009.
If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation, it would be estimated at more than $10.50 an hour today.
The legislation will also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in more than 20 years, raising it to a level that is 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.
A majority of the lowest wage-earners in New York, or 84 percent, are adult workers, not teenagers in after-school and seasonal jobs.
More than half of low-wage workers are women, many with children, and more than 40 percent are minorities, including an estimated 249,200 Hispanic residents in New York City and an estimated 181,700 African-American residents who would benefit from a pay increase.