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SU expert says New York's recent minimum wage increase still falls short

A rally for a $15 minimum wage in New York City.
Raise up NY/National Employment Law Project
A rally for a $15 minimum wage in New York City.

Entry level workers in Central New York are about to see a bump in their pay after the final stage of New York’s tiered minimum wage increase program took effect with the new year. But labor experts say the $14.20 per hour still falls short of providing enough to help make ends meet. Associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University Gretchen Purser says more needs to change for Central New Yorkers to enjoy the benefits of the increase.

“Because what we have been experiencing in recent years has been really historic levels of in terms of increase of the cost of living," Purser said. "And so this increased minimum wage doesn't reflect what we have all been experiencing, which is the rising cost of living.”

Purser says as a result, there’s been increased reliance on aid programs, which has its roots in the pandemic. She says many low-wage workers have simply gone without.

“They live in substandard housing conditions that are unsafe or unhealthy for themselves and their family members," Purser said. "They often don't have enough food on the table, and they have to make use of the social safety far as it exists, and use the food banks, we've seen increased usage of that social safety net.”

Once a leader in wage reform, Purser says New York has fallen behind and must adjust its approach in order to properly compensate workers.

“New York was at the forefront of raising the minimum wage many years ago. But now it's quite outdated," Purser said. "And what we really need is a piece of legislation that will index these raises and the minimum wage to rising costs of living and increases in worker productivity.”

The Raise Up New York legislation is actually before New York State lawmakers. The proposal would increase the minimum wage across Upstate New York to $20 per hour by 2026. Starting in 2027, the wage would be adjusted each year to keep up with rising consumer prices and worker productivity.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.