What New Yorkers really think about the $15 minimum wage
Author: Michael Saltsman
Publication Date: September 2015
Newspaper: New York Post
Topics: Minimum Wage
Not content to rest on their laurels, New York’s aggressive labor unions have expanded their demand for a $15 minimum wage from fast-food businesses to all businesses in the state.
Easier said than done. Unlike Gov. Cuomo’s executive workaround on the fast-food wage, a statewide mandate will require the Legislature’s approval.
To that end, advocates are touting a new Quinnipiac poll showing that 62 percent of New Yorkers support the phased-in $15 figure. But Quinnipiac’s poll is incomplete: Offering New Yorkers a “free” benefit without explaining the costs and consequences is dangerously misleading.
My organization used Google’s Consumer Survey tool to survey 504 New Yorkers between Sept. 20 and Sept. 22. (The results are weighted by age and gender.) We first asked whether they’d support raising the state minimum wage from the $9 figure it’s set to hit at the end of this year up to $15 an hour. Similar to Quinnipiac, we found that 57 percent were either somewhat or strongly supportive.
But then we asked respondents whether they’d still support that policy if it would cause some less-skilled employees to lose their jobs. Here, the results flipped: 57 percent of New Yorkers said they’d oppose a $15 minimum wage in this case. And when we asked how they’d feel about a $15 minimum if it would cause some small businesses to close, 67 percent opposed the policy.
This isn’t hypothetical — it’s happening on the West Coast in response to dramatic minimum-wage hikes. In San Francisco, where the minimum wage is being raised to $15, restaurants like Source, Luna Park and The Abbot’s Cellar have closed their doors this year — all citing the minimum-wage increase as a factor.
Across the bay in Oakland, child-care providers, restaurants and grocery stores have either scaled back on staff or closed entirely as a consequence of a wage hike from $9 an hour to $12.25.
Even in Los Angeles, where the $15 wage won’t begin phasing in until next year, some apparel manufacturers are already looking to move out of the city.
The consequences could be more severe in parts of New York already suffering from a sluggish economy. As The New York Times reported this summer, a $15 minimum wage would represent “75 percent or more of the wage for a typical worker” in cities such as Buffalo, Binghamton and Utica. That’s why even left-of-center economists who typically support minimum-wage increases — including former advisers for Presidents Clinton and Obama — are uncomfortable with the “fight for $15.”
Big Labor is planning to spend millions to try to make New York the first state with a $15 minimum wage. Some of the state’s business associations seem to be ready to give up fighting it. This would be an enormous mistake that would ripple across the state’s poorer regions, and eventually to other hard-hit cities in “blue” states across the country.
If New York employers have the spine to articulate the consequences of this policy for the people they employ, they’ll have the public and even left-of-center economists on their side in the fight against $15.