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Reopening the Economy, the Right Way for Workers; Index the Minimum Wage

17 May, 2021
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Unfortunately, unemployment continues to plague specific regions and industries including hospitality, hotel and entertainment as well as office work and many others. That is why the federal government’s help for claimants must continue beyond September, at least for the short term. The good news is, many businesses have been able to slowly reopen at lower capacities. Over the next few months, capacity is expected to expand and more will re-open helping get people back to work and the economy back on track.

As we reopen the economy, we should ensure that workers are being paid a decent wage. Recent reports that businesses in some areas of the state are finding it hard to recruit workers is reflective of the minimum wage not keeping pace with the needs of working families. While New York City and the surrounding areas have reached $15 an hour, much of the state continues stuck below $15 per hour. It is time to gradually get the rest of the state caught up and at the same time, index the areas that have reached $15 per hour.

Recent inflationary trends along with increases in gasoline prices and other services, while hopefully temporary, is already eroding the value of the current minimum wage. Combined with ever escalating health care costs, childcare and other expenses, it is critical that the minimum wage keep up with the economy.

Indexing the benefit will ensure gradual, affordable and predictable increases that workers and employers can plan for and count on. This makes it easier for businesses to budget and plan for their labor costs rather than force unpredictable and large increases every 5 or 10 years. Indexation and gradual increases will also serve to encourage people back to work and help the reopening process.  

Mario Cilento, President