Morning read: Minimum wage, maximum tension

Advocates for New York state’s hungry rally at the Capitol in November of 2012 for an increase in the state’s minimum wage. Will they get their wish? Photo: Karen DeWitt

Good morning! While some of us may feel that all outside-of-bed activities should cease until the temperature breaks 10 above, there’s been quite a lot going on this week.

This morning, Joanna Richards reported that Fort Drum servicemembers have mixed feelings about Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s decision to lift the ban on women in combat. Some say it’s not as big a deal as people think, given the changed nature of combat in recent years.

Others have the concerns that have been around for a long time about this — will women soldiers be able to hold their own? Will they be able to carry their own stuff? Will their presence complicate relationships between “battle buddies”?

Interesting stuff.

Also today NCPR launched its new Prison Time Media Project, with an epic story from Brian Mann on the history of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. It’s worth checking out, as is the project’s new blog.

But enough about us, let’s get down to Albany, where the temperature is a balmy 6 degrees. Journalists, organizations and others are still parsing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget address to see how it applies to the things in which they’re the most interested, and one interesting development is that Cuomo’s decision to make an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 part of the budget may mean that the rise could be more likely to become law.

Not surprisingly, the minimum wage increase idea is controversial, and people (by which I mean non-politicians) feel strongly about it. The Watertown Daily Times reports this morning that the idea is getting a “mixed reception” in that area, with owners of local businesses expressing a lot of concerns about where the money’s going to come from to pay for the increase, and at least one (Jreck Subs franchisee Peter J. Whitmore) suggesting he’d raise prices. “It would be absolutely devastating to us.”

Particularly in Watertown, where the cost of living is higher than in many other parts of the North Country, employees say the raise would be helpful, and would in some cases help people get out of untenable housing situations.

Dairy farmers would be affected by the increase as well — Douglas W. Shelmidine, who owns a large farm in Ellisburg, says the increase would “really challenge us to give opportunities to those who don’t have experience, or even kids.” In other words, if he has to pay people more, he wants better-trained, more experienced people.

Generally, the minimum wage is a vastly complicated issue and one in which most hold strong and often-intractable views. With both businesses and employees struggling, and people holding a huge array of different opinions about what stimulates the economy, what chills it, and what these terms should even mean, it’s unlikely these questions will be resolved even by data coming from any future minimum wage increase — there are just too many factors to consider, and, frankly, too much confirmation bias at work.

But maybe I’m being cynical. What do you think?

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4 Comments on “Morning read: Minimum wage, maximum tension”

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  1. scratchy says:

    I have mixed feelings about the minimum wage. On the one hand, I believe people who work should be able to obtain a living wage with which they can pay for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and utilities. I also think a lot of major corporations, such as Wal-mart, are underpaying their employees while the CEOs make out like bandits. On the other hand, there are a lot of small businesses in the north country that are struggling and a minimum wage increase could force them out of business or to lay off workers.

    Maybe a compromise could be to delay a wage increase until the economy improves?

  2. Mervel says:

    I think it should be done based on revenues.

    Large corporations making huge profits can afford to pay more in wages, they will make less profit but that is part of the game. So place like Wal-Mart etc I think the law could apply.

    However lets face it a lot of local businesses are going to have a hard time paying 8.75, and will likely lay people off or close. In some ways these laws may make big boxes even stronger in the north country as they will have one more cost advantage over their competition.

    Also in places like SLC where you have constant 10% plus rates of unemployment; it will just drive more work under the table. A lot of people in the NC already work under the table which is not good for anyone.

  3. Rancid Crabtree says:

    As I said in another post, if Cuomo really wanted to help the poor and everyone else too he’d lower NYS fuel taxes. We’re highest in the nation, paying about 70 cents per gallon on gas and 75 cents on fuel. Lower it by and half and you encourage business, travel and put money in peoples pockets across the spectrum. That is a real world, “shovel ready” answer. Instead Cuomo will put the cost on the businessman and the consumer who will end up eating the costs of a wage hike and he will cause more jobs to be lost or cut to part time. More smoke and mirrors!

  4. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Sorry, 75 cents on DIESEL fuel.

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