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Queens Chronicle

A middle minimum wage

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Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:06 am, Thu Jun 26, 2014.

Businesses cannot afford a near doubling of the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $15 in the city, as Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan is seeking, or to about $13 an hour, as Mayor de Blasio advocates. But workers here can’t afford to live on $8 an hour either.

What to do? Compromise.

The minimum wage, when adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was decades ago, which is absolutely unfair to hardworking men and women in entry-level jobs. Especially when the cost of living is as high as it is in New York City, that’s just not enough money to live on, and while many minimum-wage workers are in households where someone else is earning much better pay, not all are.

At the same time, the city cannot afford to have a minimum wage so much higher than other areas of the state that a businessman or woman who wants to open a store in, say, Queens Village, decides it would be better to just open it in Elmont, LI instead.

Or the owners of existing stores might close some of them. Crain’s New York Business last week quoted the CEO of Apple-Metro, which owns 40 Applebee’s in the region, as saying he would probably close about 10 percent of them if the minimum wage went to $13 an hour, much less $15. They would be the chain’s “marginal stores.” Would that include the relatively new one in Jamaica, one of only two proper sit-down restaurants in the area?

The other negative repercussion of a mandatory wage hike for those companies that keep operating, as businesses constantly point out, is that it can result in the hiring of fewer workers, since the money available for payroll is finite.

State law already says the minimum wage will go to $9 an hour soon. Gov. Cuomo seems to favor $10.10, with future hikes tied to inflation. That sounds like a good statewide compromise: an improvement for workers that won’t close the places where they are employed.

Welcome to the discussion.