YORKTOWN, N.Y. – The first in a scheduled series of minimum-wage increases for Westchester County went into effect Dec. 31, raising the wage from $9 to $10.
The minimum wage will continue to increase in $1 increments over the next five years in New York State. It will be the biggest wage hike since 2000 when the minimum wage was increased by 90 cents, from $4.25 to $5.15. Since then, it’s gone up in increments ranging from 10 cents to 85 cents. Prior to December’s hike, the last increase was from $8.75 to $9 going into 2016.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation in April 2016 as a part of New York’s 2016-17 budget approval process. It differs from the legislation that will also increase the minimum wage to $15 for fast-food workers in many parts of the state by 2021.
Some Yorktown business owners believe the increase in wages will mean higher prices for consumers. Others said their businesses won’t be affected since they already pay higher than minimum-wage salaries to their employees.
Ahmed Bashjawish, the franchisee for the Yorktown 7-Eleven, said that since the increase is gradual, he isn’t “pulling his hair out over it,” because other prices and wages throughout the community will adjust accordingly. However, he said, prices will increase at businesses such as his to accommodate the increase.
“The consumer is going to have to get used to paying another quarter for the same item,” he said. “It will be fine.”
Eric DiBartolo, business owner and president of the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, said he talked the issue over with several other business owners and many are in favor of the hike. However, he said, there are some reservations, such as the lack of incentive for minimum-wage employees who may reap the benefit of the hike without making efforts to earn a higher salary.
“You have people who work the system,” he said. “No matter what, they’re going to get their $15 an hour. The private sector is a little bit different because if you don’t produce you’re going to get fired. I don’t mind paying someone their worth but it’s a little bit difficult when the government steps in and tells you where to start.”
Bob Giordano, president of the Yorktown Small Business Association, said he feels the minimum wage increase is appropriate for this region because those who make minimum wage may struggle against the area’s high cost of living.
While many of those who earn minimum wage in Yorktown are high-school kids experiencing their first job, Giordano said some are people who are just on the lower end of the economic scale.
He said that in an area where the cost of living is high, helping those making minimum wage earn a fair wage that accommodates the prices in the area doesn’t seem like a bad idea. He believes that raising minimum wage might help businesses retain more employees.
“Keeping the wages low in my view tends to bring along with it a high turnover rate,” he said.
He added that it seems foolish to let an employee go across the street to a business that will pay them slightly more.
“I did it as a kid myself; I jumped across the street for the higher paying job—that’s the way the economy works,” Giordano said. “I don’t think local businesses will be hurt by paying a higher minimum wage. Long term, if they’re pennywise and not dollar-foolish, I think they’ll say, ‘I’d rather have long-term employees.’”
A happy work environment with happy employees who feel they’re being treated fairly and taken care of is a win-win all around, Giordano said, adding that people not pulling their weight at work are prevalent in any industry and those that do so are unlikely to move into a better position.
“It doesn’t take long for people to realize that, ‘I’m standing here making minimum wage for two years and people are moving past me—why?’” he said.