U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries were joined at Tiny Cup café in Bedford-Stuyvesant today by Brooklyn small business owner Daicha Perkins in calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage 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 approximately 195,000 Brooklyn residents, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, and generate an estimated $618 million of new consumer spending at New York City businesses according to the Economic Policy Institute. Raising the minimum wage is one of the simplest and most effective policies for helping working families, and it is also a tool for economic growth. When low-wage workers get a raise, they immediately spend it in their local communities, spending which ripples through the local economy.
"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 Senator Gillibrand. "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. Increasing the minimum wage is a common sense solution for our working poor families who are deciding which bill they can afford to pay this month and for our local Brooklyn businesses who will profit from additional consumer spending."
"Throughout Brooklyn, many working families are struggling to survive and make ends meet," said Assemblyman Jeffries. "These are difficult times, and American workers deserve a decent wage for a hard days work as the cost of living continues to skyrocket. Passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 will address the rising cost of basic necessities like food, gas, and housing, and grow our economy in a sustainable way that will also benefit local businesses."
"I know what minimum wage looks like when I struggled to keep my head above water as a dishwasher," said Daicha Perkins, Owner of Tiny Cup. "The cost for not providing a livable standard is more than just dollars and cents. Now as a proud small business owner in Brooklyn, I know firsthand that raising the minimum wage is good for business. It will boost morale among employees, which makes them work more efficiently and more reliably. I support a higher federal minimum wage for all working New Yorkers."
Senator Gillibrand, along with 16 of her Senate colleagues, is pushing the effort in the Senate to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, legislation which would increase the minimum wage to $9.80 in three 85-cent increments over a three-year period. To keep up with the rising cost of living, the wage would be indexed to inflation. The purchasing power of the minimum wage is currently 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.
According to United NY, someone working full-time at minimum wage earns $290 a week, or just $15,080 yearly without any time off. This annual salary for a minimum wage earning working poor family of three is $3,000 below the poverty level on an annual basis, making it difficult to make ends meet and increasing dependency on government assistance programs. The Fair Minimum Wage Act will boost the minimum wage to $20,000, lifting those working poor families above the poverty line.