UB community talks New York's minimum wage increase

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Angela Barca has been putting in hours in minimum-wage jobs since she was a freshman in high school and four years later, she’s noticing and increase in her paycheck.

So is the rest of New York State.

New York State’s minimum wage was raised 75 cents to $8.75 an hour on Dec. 31, 2014. Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans for even more increases in the state’s minimum wage, which will go up to $9 next year. Despite seeing more money in their paychecks each week, some students are apprehensive about the increase in the state’s minimum wage.

“Most mom and pop businesses won’t be able to afford an increased labor cost,” said Chase LeBrun, a freshman engineering major. “They will have no choice but to cut back on jobs.”

Barca, a freshman business major, currently works at The Children’s Place, a children’s clothing store. Despite receiving extra money in her paycheck, Barca said she struggles to see how raising the minimum wage is beneficial for the economy and fears that it will lead to higher prices and job losses.

“Something will have to compensate,” Barca said. “Either businesses will have to raise their prices or they will have to shut down entirely. I just can’t see the realistic, positive effects.”

Despite LeBrun and Barca’s concerns over New York State’s economy, Paul Zarembka, an economics professor at UB, said the increase will be good.

“There has been a huge profit made by American corporations on the backs of its workers,” Zarembka said. “It’ll be a redress bringing it back down to the people doing the work.”

Despite concerns over the wage increase, Zarembka explained that a multiplying effect should self-correct the economy: workers will now have more money to spend on an excess of goods.

But, New York employees who work full-time making minimum wage will now make just over $18,000 a year.

Zarembka said it’s still not enough.

“This type of increase will only have a small, positive effect,” Zarembka said. “If it were up to me, I’d set the minimum wage at $15.00 an hour.”

Cities like Seattle, Washington plan to do just that.

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved the plan to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15.00 an hour by 2021 this past June. Washington already had the nation’s highest state-level minimum wage of $9.47.

Other areas are also looking to increase their wage, although not as drastically.

Cuomo announced in his State of the State Address on Jan. 21 that he would like to increase New York City’s wage to $11.50. Many of UB’s students, like Barca, are from New York City.

Although Barca is “not a huge fan” of the overall state wage increase, she said the possible New York City increase would do its residents just considering the city’s high living expenses.

The wage increases will surely lead to debate in the legislature over the next few months due to the complexity and the differing opinions surrounding the issue.

“Although overall I am not a huge fan of the increase, I do believe it’ll have its benefits,” Barca said.

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