The Independent Democratic Conference, a five-member breakaway group that shares control of the state Senate with Republicans, released a report Tuesday showing that women and minorities would benefit most from a minimum wage increase.
IDC Leader Jeffrey Klein, D-Bronx, has sponsored a bill that would raise the state minimum wage to $8.50. The wage is currently $7.15 by law, but it’s trumped by the federal wage, which is higher, at $7.25. Klein said the IDC would support a higher wage, though; Gov. Andrew Cuomo advocated an increase to $8.75 in his budget proposal last month.
Klein said he would like legislation that allowed for the wage to increase with inflation. But if Senate Republicans won’t agree to indexing, “the most important thing we need to do is have an increase of the minimum wage in the budget this year,” Klein said at a Capitol news conference Tuesday.
“The workers of New York have waited long enough,” he continued.
Klein rejected the possibility of a minimum-wage hike bill that includes tax cuts to businesses, which Republicans have suggested would be more palatable.
“A minimum-wage increase, I think, is important enough that it stands alone,” he said.
During a speech in New York City last week, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos suggested he might support a phased-in increase or a lower “training wage.” Klein hedged on both proposals.
“We’ll have to see,” he said of the phase-in.
While women make up 49 percent of New York’s workforce, they make up 56 percent of minimum-wage workers, according to the IDC’s report, which cites a Fiscal Policy Institute study from last month.
Similarly, minorities disproportionately work low-paying jobs. White people account for 61 percent of the state’s labor force but only 49 percent of minimum-wage workers.
Black workers make up 13 percent of the work force but 15 percent of low-paid workers. Hispanics account for 16 percent of all workers but 25 percent of minimum-wage employees. And Asians represent 10 percent of the labor force but 11 percent of the lowest-paid.
“We hear the same arguments over and over: We can’t afford it, it’s bad for business, it costs jobs, it drives people out of New York,” said Sen. Diane Savino, D-Brooklyn. “And every time we take that bold step—providing economic justice for low-wage workers, particularly women—we defy their claims. It’s all nonsense.”