If you make minimum wage, you're about to get a raise.
On Monday, the wage floor in Western New York will increase from $10.40 per hour to $11.10 per hour.
It's the third annual wage hike in as many years, part of an incremental wage increase put into effect as part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's 2016-17 state budget. New York's minimum wage is set to increase on Dec. 31 each year until it reaches $15 per hour.
Next year, the wage will increase to $11.80, followed by $12.50 the following year. In 2021, the increase will be determined by the director of the Division of Budget and published by the labor commissioner.
Once the wage reaches $15, it will result in annual pay of about $31,200 a year. That is the minimum salary needed for low-wage workers to cover basic expenses such as food and rent, state labor and housing advocates have said. It will also give New York the nation's fifth-highest wage floor, behind California, Washington, Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts, based on current data.
But the added costs are making some local businesses nervous. Pulp 716, a comic book store with locations in Lockport and North Tonawanda, is hoping to absorb the costs in a way that won't negatively impact customers or employees.
It doesn't want to cut back on the number of comic book titles it offers on shelves so, instead, it will order fewer copies of each one. The store will also place smaller supply orders for its cafe, cutting back on the number of cups, napkins and bubble tea ingredients it orders.
"We're hoping that will help us stay within our budget without having to raise our prices," said Amy Berent, the store's co-owner.
Down the road at North Tonawanda’s Confer Plastics, president Bob Confer said he anticipates raising product prices 5 percent next year. Employees at Confer, which makes swimming pool accessories and other molded plastic products, already make $13.50 per hour – three dollars above the state minimum.
But with the minimum wage hikes, the company will need to increase both starting salaries and across-the-board pay to stay competitive against other employers, Confer said.
“For a company like mine that competes against manufacturers from across the country and even around the world, this will impact our competitiveness,” he said. “[It’s] a tough sell given that our costs are already a little higher due to New York’s regulatory and tax burdens.”
Elsewhere in the state, the minimum wage will increase to $12 per hour on Long Island and in Westchester County, to $13.50 for small employers in New York City and to $15 per hour for employers in New York City with 11 or more employees.
Fast food workers in Western New York will also receive a raise on New Year's Eve, taking their hourly pay from $11.75 to $12.75. Those workers in New York City will see their wages go from $13.50 to $15 per hour.
Fast food workers are set apart as a special class of employees. In 2015, Cuomo put together a Wage Board to hear testimony from workers. The board then made recommendations to the state labor commissioner that resulted in the separate phasing in of a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers.
The minimum wage for fast food workers outside of New York City is set to increase again on Dec. 31, 2019, to $13.75. It will increase to $14.50 in 2020 and to $15 in 2021.
Employers who fail to pay the proper minimum wages are subject to a fine of $3 for every hour they shorted the employee, as well as back pay and penalties. Employees can calculate their wages with the worker protection tool at NY.gov/MyWage. Workers whose employers do not comply with the wage increases can contact the Department of Labor at (888) 469-7365.