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Minimum Wage Increase: Business Owner See Benefits and Concerns Over Negative Impacts

Chris Bolt/WAER News

New York's minimum wage increased across the state this week to $11.80 an hour – outside of New York City - and one Ithaca business owner says she’s ok with it.   Jan Rhodes Norman owns Ithaca Made and Silk Oak clothing and has already been paying two full-time employees higher than the state’s minimum wage for years now.  They earn $15.37 an hour. 

She acknowledges it will be difficult for some businesses to swallow, after 40 years of stagnant wages, but she feels it’s worth it.

“It does put a pinch on businesses, on the other hand is it fair that on the backs of our laborers who keep our businesses chugging along, we have falsely kept those wages low while everything else has gone high.”

Rhodes-Norman is part of a network, Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.  She says it’s good when workers have more expendable income, which ultimately gets pumped back into the local economy.  She adds that quality of work and longer retention rates of employees are better with a higher wage.

“ I think in terms of general profitability of your business there’s a lot to be said for having a skilled staff that’s happy with their job and wants to keep it.”

However, not everyone shares her viewpoint.  Unshackle Upstate says in a statement they’re hearing concerns from business owners that the minimum wage increase will hurt bottom lines and cause layoffs. 


  • New York City minimum wage increased to $15 on Dec. 31, 2019 for businesses with 10 employees or fewer, putting all businesses in New York City at $15.
  • Long Island and Westchester increased to $13 on Dec. 31, 2019, $14 in 2020 and $15 in 2021.
  • The rest of New York State increased to $11.80 on Dec. 31, 2019, and $12.50 on Dec. 31, 2020. Annual increases starting in 2021 will bring the rest of New York to $15 on a schedule to be determined based on cost of living and other indices

Governor Cuomo has also proposed increasing wages for tipped workers by the end of 20-20 to reduce a gap in pay from other minimum wage employees.  Businesses, including local restaurants, have opposed that plan in the past. 

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.