Councilmen Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) have different reasons for co-sponsoring a resolution they hope will result in the city being able to set its own minimum wage and have markedly different beliefs on how the city should proceed should the state Legislature grant the authority.
Dromm, a retired school teacher, believes the current state rate of $8 per hour should increase to the $15 that fast-food workers have been asking for in a recent series of one-day job actions.
Miller, the former transit union president who has seen his share of tough salary negotiations, said he does not yet have an exact dollar amount that he advocates.
But both led a rally outside of City Hall last week prior to the Council passing the nonbinding resolution by a final vote of 44-4.
And both believe it is imperative to the effort to elevate minimum-wage workers out of poverty in the city.
“People can’t live in New York City on $8 an hour,” Miller said. “I don’t have a specific level in mind yet. It would have to be something that would allow workers to make a living and would have to take into consideration what the city’s economy could bear.”
Seattle this month passed a local law that would phase in a minimum wage of $15 per hour. The increase will take effect over a period of three to seven years, depending on the size of each business.
The national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. New York State’s will jump to $9 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016. Companion bills in the state Legislature, S.6516 and A.9036, if passed and signed into law, would allow municipalities to raise the minimum wage above the state minimum within their borders.
In a report issued in February, the Congressional Budget Office stated that a proposal by President Obama and some congressional leaders to lift the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would affect an estimated 16.5 million workers and lift approximately 900,000 people above the poverty level.
It also forecast that there would be a corresponding 0.3 percent drop in employment, a figure the White House and critics of a wage increase dispute as too high or too low, respectively.
Critics of an increase said a rise to $15 in the fast food industry — nearly double the current state minimum — could move restaurants in the city to replace workers with automation in order to offset increased labor costs, and that employers everywhere might reduce hours or just not hire as many people.
Dromm, however, cited a study from San Francisco and other cities where increases of about 10 percent resulted in increased employment, happier employees and less turnover in return for an average increase of about 7 percent in menu prices.
“Personally, I’d be willing to pay that,” Dromm said. He conceded that there would be some unknowns with a hike as steep as the proposed $15 per hour rate.
Miller said the market would have to be taken into consideration because the city needs and wants businesses to succeed and make a profit.
Neither he nor Dromm believe that businesses would simply discard workers by the score.
“This is a city that cares about people,” Miller said.