New York’s minimum wage increased from $7.25 to $8 per hour on December 31, 2013. This is the first of three increases approved by the state legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo when they approved the state budget in March. That may not seem like a lot, but that can easily add up to over $1,500/year, even without overtime. And, of course, an increase in the minimum wage means an increase in the overtime pay rate for those who qualify. The new legislation also has future minimum wage hikes built into it – going from $8 to $8.75 at the end of 2014, and then up again to $9 by December 31, 2015. New York joins the ranks of thirteen other states raising the minimum wage this year, some to as high as $9.32 (in Washington state). This all comes on the heels of President Obama’s call for a national raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015.
Unfortunately, many people making minimum wage still live in poverty, and are forced to on public assistance.
We should also keep in mind that an $8 or $9 minimum wage is certainly higher than the current federal minimum, it falls off historical numbers. In 1960, for example, the minimum wage was 47% of the median wage of U.S. full-time workers. Today, the minimum wage is 37% of the minimum wage. While any increase in the minimum wage is welcome and necessary, the reality is that real wages for the lowest paid Americans have been steadily declining over the past four decades.