Costco, Greater NY Chamber, Eileen Fisher, HopStop, Small Business Owners Urge Minimum Wage Increase

For Immediate Release: May 24, 2012
Contact: Raymond Rodriguez, raymond@berlinrosen.com, 646-200-5309; Holly Sklar, hsklar@businessforsharedprosperity.org, 617-522-2923

New York – Today, business leaders across New York called on Governor Cuomo and the State Senate to support the minimum wage increase passed last week in the Assembly. Costco, the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, EILEEN FISHER, HopStop, ABC Home, Buffalo First, Syracuse First, the American Sustainable Business Council and more than 200 small business owners from around New York State have signed a joint statement to make the case that raising the minimum wage will benefit businesses, workers and the state economy.

“At Costco, we know good wages are good business,” said Jeff Long, Senior Vice President Northeast Region, Costco Wholesale. “We keep our overhead low while still paying a starting wage of $11 an hour. Our employees are a big reason why our sales per square foot is almost double that of our nearest competitor. Instead of minimizing wages, we know it’s a lot more profitable for the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity and commitment, product value, customer service and company reputation. There’s no reason all businesses in New York, big and small, can’t pay at least an $8.50 hourly wage.”

Mark Jaffe, President and CEO of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, said, “The proposal to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 next year and adjust it after that is by any measure very modest, especially in a high-cost state like New York. Rather than hurting employers, we believe it will help boost the consumer sales that businesses need to keep the recovery going.”

“I firmly believe an increased minimum wage is good for business,” said Melanie Beam, Director of WSG.net and President of Capital District Local First, an independent business alliance in Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Saratoga Counties. “It hurts our local economies when workers are paid so little they have to work two jobs or rely on public assistance to make ends meet. By raising the minimum wage, we will have more dollars circulating in our communities, boosting our local businesses and our state.”

Eileen Fisher, Chief Creative Officer of EILEEN FISHER, Inc., said, “Since I started the company in 1984, we've manufactured some of our most core fabrics in New York City factories. We honor the enormous contribution of the women and men who produce our clothes. Raising New York's minimum wage to $8.50 an hour would be a step on the path to acknowledging the positive difference they make in the success of our company and all brands who engage local labor in their supply chains.”

“Businesses don’t expect the costs of energy, rent, transportation and other expenses to remain constant, yet some lobbyists want to keep the minimum wage the same year after year, despite increases in the cost of living,” said David Bolotsky, Founder and CEO of UncommonGoods. “That kind of business model traps workers in poverty and undermines our economy. We’ve got over 50 warehouse and customer service employees here in Brooklyn and our starting hourly wage is $11. An $8.50 minimum wage is not only reasonable, it’s long overdue.”

In the statement, the business leaders said, “A higher minimum wage makes good business sense. It puts money in the hands of New Yorkers who will put it right back into local businesses, buying needed goods and services. Research shows that minimum wage increases boost consumer spending substantially more than tax cuts do. And increasing minimum wage reduces the strain on our social safety net caused by inadequate wages.”

“I started my business with a few hundred dollars in the corner of my daughter’s bedroom,” said Mandi Meidlinger, President and Founder of Jillian's Drawers, in Ithaca. “If I can provide a living wage, so can every other business out there!”

Jonathon Welch, Co-Founder of Talking Leaves...Books, Buffalo’s oldest independent bookstore, said, “I support an increase in the minimum wage to $8.50. I firmly believe that a fair and just minimum wage is essential to the long-term health of the local and overall economy. I also support indexing the wage rate, which allows me to plan into the future and not be hit with unexpected costs.”

The statement refutes claims that minimum wage increase will cost jobs, pointing out, “The most rigorous studies of the impact of actual minimum wage increases show they do not cause job loss – whether during periods of economic growth or during recessions.”

“The increase to $8.50 should not be delayed. The minimum wage would be over $10 per hour if it had kept pace with the cost of living,” said Martin Rothenberg, President of Glottal Enterprises, Syracuse. “The increase will help level the playing field for New York companies. It will put money in the hands of New Yorkers who will put it back into our local economy buying goods and services they need, but can’t afford on the current minimum wage.”

New York lags behind 18 states, including neighboring Connecticut and Vermont, that have raised their minimum wages above $7.25, which comes to just $15,080 for full-time, year-round work. Other leading business voices, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have also called for raising the minimum wage.

Visit Business For a Fair Minimum Wage for the growing list of signers and the full statement.

* Business owners available for interview in addition to those cited above. *

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